I come from the typical Italian family. Sunday dinners with lots of pasta, bread and gravy followed by rainbow cookies and cannoli’s. And I’m not here to knock it. I mean, who can turn down a St. Joseph’s pastry? They are delicious.
However, when I got pregnant with my daughter, my family encouraged me to eat for two. Which isn’t exactly what doctors or nutritionists recommend for pregnant women. My family was even more surprised to find out that I was continuing to head to the gym and fitness classes while pregnant instead of resting and relaxing.
Now, I’m not here to tell you NOT to relax during those nine months. But I do think that working out while pregnant was beneficial during my pregnancy. I was not concerned with weight gain but more so making sure that my body was strong and prepared for labor. Now that I’m pregnant with Baby #2, I’m ready to continue my fitness regime and I wanted to chat with some experts to be more informed about my choices for working out while pregnant.
The benefits of working out while pregnant
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), “Overall and in most cases, exercise is safe during pregnancy. You will usually find it is even recommended. Typically, the first rule of thumb is if you were physically active before you were pregnant, it is likely safe to remain active during pregnancy. More than likely, your healthcare provider will tell you to remain active, as long as it is comfortable and there are no other health conditions suggesting otherwise.”
Prenatal fitness expert Erin Bahadur adds, “If you have any medical issues that prevent exercising or your doctor has told you not to for any reason (such as a high-risk pregnancy), make sure to listen!”
Bahadur also advises barring high impact and contact sports like soccer during pregnancy.
She says, “As a conservative guideline, crunches, planks, and other front-loading exercises that put pressure on the front of the abdominals (pushups, bent over rows, etc.) should be stopped after the 16th week. Yoga is also great, but skip the heat.”
Certified Women’s Fitness Specialist Jesse Truelove adds not trying to set any personal (or world!) records while pregnant.
“A good way to tell if you are pushing it too far is the Talk Test. You should be able to have a clear conversation with someone while you are working out. You don’t want to be huffing and puffing. Focus on deep breathing and staying conscious of your core always!”
The best workouts for pregnancy
So what kind of work outs can you do while pregnant and what are the benefits?
The APA breaks down so many benefits of exercising during pregnancy such as reducing back pain, constipation, bloating and swelling. Working out while pregnant may help prevent gestational diabetes, increase energy and mood, improve posture, and promote muscle tone, strength and endurance. Finally, working out helps one sleep better, and regular activity also helps one improve your ability to cope during labor (including an easier recovery).
Trueloe says walking is the probably the most recommended activity since it can be done at all trimesters.
“If we don’t move, we get stiff and lose range of motion!” she explains. “Some great exercises to help soothe joints and lessen impact include swimming, stationary bike, elliptical and walking. Strength training can also be very beneficial. We need to be strong to carry the weight of the baby and keep great form. Proper posture and breathing should be used for every mama too—this is my favorite!”
Strength training workouts are highly recommended by Bahadur because they help you prepare for delivery.
“Exercises such as squats and deadlifts help strengthen the lower body and posterior chain, which in turn will help with pushing when the time comes,” she says. “Getting your heart rate up is also beneficial because it will help with endurance and stamina in delivery.”
Bahadur continues, “The workouts don’t necessarily change per trimester, but certain moves may need to be modified as your belly grows and your anatomy changes to accommodate a growing baby. It’s also in the second and moreso the third trimesters that movements begin to be modified.”
Overall, listen to your body
And while this is all incredibly helpful information, let’s not forget to take it easy on yourself. You are pregnant. You are growing a human being. If you can’t do the same intensity as prior to being pregnant – that is okay.
Bahadur encourages women to listen to their body when working out while pregnant.
“If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it,” she cautions. “Fitness during this period in your life is not about training as hard as you can, it’s about training as smart as you can. You don’t need to prove that you can lift a ton of weight or run a marathon. Be gentle with yourself, and make smart decisions that will ensure a healthy pregnancy and a quick recovery.”
Please note: You should always ask your doctor before determining if working out is best for your body during pregnancy.