If you’ve always imagined pregnancy to be a nine-month-long nap, it might be time to rethink your prenatal plans. Experts agree that it’s important to keep moving when you’re expecting. Exercise in pregnancy has been shown to be associated with a higher incidence of vaginal delivery and lower incidence of excessive weight gain, lower back pain, gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure. We encourage everyone to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during and after pregnancy.
Follow these do’s and don’ts for exercising while pregnant.
Do: Talk to Your Doctor First
Every woman and every pregnancy is different, so be sure to get the thumbs-up from your OB before hitting the gym. Even if you’ve always exercised regularly, you might need to make some modifications or avoid certain activities that could put your baby at risk. And if you’ve never worked out, map out a beginner’s plan with your doctor’s guidance to ensure you don’t overdo it.
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Do: Get Enough Calories
It can be a big adjustment for many women, but the goal of working out while pregnant is not to lose weight. Depending on the type of exercise you do, you’ll want to be sure you’re eating enough to make up for the calorie burn.
Don’t: Start Training for a Marathon
If you’re a seasoned runner, long races are usually safe. But if you’ve never run before, this is not the time to sign up for a marathon. You should also avoid contact sports like basketball and soccer, as well as activities that could throw off your balance and cause a fall. That means skiing, surfing and mountain biking are out. Walking, swimming, yoga, resistance exercises, dancing, and stationary cycling are excellent options for pregnant women.
Do: Stay Hydrated
While there’s no official recommendation for how much water you should drink while pregnant, your body’s temperature regulation is highly dependent on the environmental conditions and hydration. In addition to drinking enough water, you should wear loose-
fitting clothing and avoid high heat and humidity (particularly in the first trimester). How do you know if you’re drinking enough? Check the color of your urine — dark yellow is a sign of dehydration.
Don’t: Overdo It
If your workout mantra has always been “no pain, no gain,” you may need to slow things down. The US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guide for Americans recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week during pregnancy and in the postpartum period (3 to 4, 30-60 minute sessions). An easy way to measure your exertion is the “talk test” – if you can carry on a conversation while exercising, you are likely not over-exerting yourself. And if you experience things like vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, dizziness, or chest pain, you should stop.
Do: Something You Love!
You’re more likely to stick to an exercise regimen if you actually enjoy it. And it won’t be long before finding the time to work out will be difficult (hello, new baby!), so take advantage of the solo time while you can.
Editor's note: This blog was originally published on June 23, 2017 and has since been updated.