Dr. Renan's Guide to Exercising While Pregnant

Women who make it a point to exercise regularly when they’re pregnant will likely see a number of benefits. The list includes easing back pain and constipation, minimizing swelling, boosting your mood, helping you sleep better, mitigating excessive weight gain, and helping you return to your previous physique after you give birth.

If Dr. Renan gives you the OK to exercise, follow some specific guidelines when setting up your workout routine. Remember, you want to maximize your health during pregnancy, not set world records.

Frequency of workouts

Just like for women who aren’t pregnant, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. At that pace, your heart rate rises and you break a sweat. You may be able to talk in short sentences but need to take a breath often. You can exercise more often, but Dr. Renan may ask you to back off if you start to lose weight or fail to gain weight.

Types of workouts

If you were active prior to your pregnancy, you can keep on doing your thing as long as Dr. Renan approves. Avoid extremely high-intensity exercise or risky workouts — such as rock climbing, horseback riding, and cycling — which all pose a risk of falls.

If you’re new to exercising, start gradually, even just a few minutes per day and at a very low intensity. Walking, elliptical machines, yoga, and dance classes are excellent choices. Many health clubs offer prenatal exercise programs, too. As your pregnancy progresses and your body changes, you may find that water offers the most satisfaction for workouts. Swimming, water walking, and water aerobics classes provide buoyancy and can take some weight off aching joints.

Specific precautions

Keep the safety of both you and your baby in mind while you exercise. Avoid dehydration, which can trigger preterm labor. Your urine should always be pale. If you experience dizziness or an extremely high heart rate during exercise, stop immediately, drink water, and rest. Getting overheated can be dangerous, too — especially in your first trimester. If the temperatures outside are blazing, opt for an indoor workout.

Supportive bras give relief to sore, bloated breasts, and you may want to invest in a belly support to prop up your tummy and back as you grow in size. Keep moving when you’re working out, too. Lying on your back for long periods of time can cause your uterus to compress the vena cava artery, so prop yourself up if you are in a workout that requires you to recline. Also, try to avoid standing still as much as possible, because that can cause pooling of blood in your legs and feet.

Beware of all the ways your body changes

Your body changes during pregnancy. Some of these changes are obvious — a growing belly that throws off your balance and puts extra pressure on your joints, for example. But, other changes occur that can affect exercise and your health.

Connective tissue at your joints relaxes due to the release of a pregnancy hormone called relaxin. This can make you more mobile, which may feel good and increase your range of motion, but it also increases the risk of overstretching your joints.

Your need for oxygen increases during pregnancy, too, and exercise compounds that need for oxygen, so you may find yourself getting out of breath more quickly as you work out. This is normal and you don’t need to push past it. Listen to your body and ease up your intensity, even if it seems less than usual.

If you have other specific questions about exercising while pregnant, don’t hesitate to raise them with Dr. Renan. Take advantage of his vast knowledge and experience.

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