Why do so many women believe it’s unsafe to exercise while pregnant?
According to one study reviewed on WebMD, of 90 pregnant women surveyed by Melissa J. Hague, MD, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita, less than 27% exercised during pregnancy, even though almost half of the women noted that they exercised moderately for at least 90 minutes a week beforehand.
Hague told WebMD that many pregnant women tend to avoid exercise because of myths passed down through their families, and Raul Artal, chair and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and women's health at St. Louis University School of Medicine mentioned that doctors who fail to pass along information about exercise and diet are sometimes also to blame.
For most women, exercising while pregnant is completely healthy. In fact, according to ACSM Health and Fitness Specialist Rebecca Scritchfield, not only can exercising while pregnant help keep you healthy and happy, but it can also help improve the short- and long-term health of your baby.
That said, pregnant women still need to take caution when beginning with or continuing an exercise routine and there are some restrictions involved.
“Always consult with your doctor or midwife before entering into any exercise routine while pregnant,” says Rebekah Borucki, a fitness and yoga instructor and the founder of BEXLIFE and the BLISSED IN® wellness movement.
“Every pregnancy is unique—even healthy ones. In a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, it is usually completely safe for the mother to continue whatever exercise routine she was following before becoming pregnant," she said. "Running, yoga, weightlifting, spin, and all sorts of exercise are healthy throughout pregnancy as long as the mother is comfortable and her body is already conditioned for it.”
Not only is Borucki a fitness and wellness expert, but she’s also a mom to four kids and has a fifth on the way. Having dealt with many of the different aspects of exercising while pregnant, she noted that moms-to-be should keep a few important things in mind.
“Pregnancy is a time to be kind to your body and to maintain already established routines,” Borucki said. “It’s not a time to lift heavier weights, run further than you’ve ever run, or try new exercises.”
She also mentioned that as your body continues to grow, you might find that your regular routine will become more difficult.
“During the first and second trimester, keeping up with your old routine may feel effortless,” Borucki said. “However, as your body grows to probably the biggest it’s ever been, keeping your joints safe with low-impact exercise will allow you to stay active and comfortable right up until the day your baby arrives.”
She also says that women should be aware of the fact that during pregnancy a hormone called Relaxin is produced. It allows ligaments, tendons and muscles to stretch in preparation for childbirth. Because the hormone increases with each subsequent pregnancy, women in their second or third pregnancy may find they are more flexible.
“This increased flexibility is not necessarily a sign that you should stretch further,” said Borucki. “Be aware of where you were before pregnancy and avoid over-stretching. Pushing too far can cause injury and lead to not being able to exercise at all.”
Below are a few more healthy pregnancy tips that Borucki offered:
- Try to eat as many raw foods as possible; fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds in their raw form provide the maximum nutritional benefits without the extra calories and saturated fats found in animal products.
- Drink lots and lots of water. Your body’s blood volume will grow by 50% and you’re working harder to move around. This requires hydration!
- Sleep whenever it feels good. Go to bed early, take frequent cat naps, and quit artificial means of staying awake like caffeine and refined added sugars.
- Practice meditation, even for a few minutes a day. You’re preparing for one of the biggest events of your life and it’s important to stay calm and mentally fit. Use meditation to connect with your unborn baby and to practice positive mantras that make you feel good about your growing body.
“Staying in shape during pregnancy is about much more than just moving,” Borucki said. "Exercise is essential, but so is your mental health and diet."
As Borucki mentioned earlier, in uncomplicated pregnancies, most times it’s safe for the mother to continue with the exercise routine she was following before, but she says that low-impact exercises are most ideal.
Continue reading to find out which types of workouts and exercises Borucki recommends most for pregnant women.
Borucki says that yoga is one of her favorite ways to exercise while pregnant. “My growing body provides all the extra weight I need to make my yoga practice a powerful one,” she said. “However, in yoga, deep twists and lying on your back for extended periods of time should be avoided—especially in the second and third trimesters.”
“Walking keeps me active without exhausting me,” Borucki said. “There’s also an invaluable meditative element to both a yoga and walking practice that gives me time to relax, connect with my new baby, and de-stress from pregnancy-related anxiety.”