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Can I Exercise While Pregnant?

Healthy Living

The dos and don'ts of pregnancy can be daunting. And among your long list of questions is, "Can I exercise while pregnant?"

The answer is a resounding "Yes." In most cases it is safe and, actually, advised.

There is no evidence suggesting harm to you or your baby. Even if you haven't exercised regularly leading up to your pregnancy, walking, swimming, yoga or other moderately paced activities are encouraged.

There are a few pregnancy-related conditions that make exercise unsafe, so you should check with your doctor to see if anything in your personal health history precludes you from exercising.

But generally, exercising four to five times a week for about 20 to 30 minutes at a time is recommended.

The Benefits of Exercising While Pregnant

Exercise can have a positive impact on your health, as well as your baby's. The benefits are numerous, including:

  • It helps you maintain a healthy pregnancy weight.
  • You are more likely to achieve a vaginal delivery.
  • You will have a reduced risk of gestational diabetes.
  • It enhances your psychological well-being.
  • You are less likely to develop postpartum depression.
  • It leads to a faster recovery, including getting back into pre-pregnancy condition.

Suggested Forms of Exercise

These exercises are considered safe for a pregnant woman:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Stationary cycling
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Running or jogging
  • Strength training
  • Yoga (with modifications)
  • Pilates (with modifications)

Modifications for Your Changing Body

If you're in good health, your primary care provider will likely give you the green light to continue your normal workout routine with a few modifications for your and your baby's safety. While you may want to meet with a personal trainer to get personalized recommendations for modifying your regular workouts, here are some general things to keep in mind:

  • Because lying on your back may result in decreased venous return and low blood pressure, it is not advised in any way, so reposition yourself during exercises that call for this, especially during select yoga and pilates moves.
  • Stay well-hydrated and avoid high heat and humidity. Exercising inside where you can control the climate is advised.
  • Your changing balance, joint laxity and lower extremity swelling call for caution. If you're a runner, slow your pace and be more cautious about running conditions.
  • Racquet sports that require fast, lateral movements increase your chances of falling and should be avoided. If you're a seasoned athlete at these sports, use caution.
  • Weight lifting is usually safe to continue, but avoid lifting heavy weight above your head and don't lift weights while lying on your back.

When is Exercise NOT Recommended?

There is no evidence that exercise causes early labor; however, some women who are already at risk for preterm labor may not be able to exercise at all during pregnancy.

Regardless of your individual condition, avoid these activities that can have more serious repercussions:

  • Contact sports
  • Scuba diving
  • Snow and water skiing
  • Horseback riding
  • Hot yoga
  • Outside exercise during a heat advisory

When to Discontinue Exercise

Discontinue exercise and call your doctor if you experience any of these warning signs:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Regular painful contractions
  • Amniotic fluid leakage
  • Difficulty breathing before exertion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness affecting balance
  • Calf pain or swelling

Finally, remember that your baby will benefit from having a strong, healthy mom. Whether or not you're able to exercise during pregnancy, it is important to set some postpartum fitness goals, as well.

During pregnancy and beyond, the women's health care services at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission can meet your needs. Take our survey to find the right doctor for you.