There are many myths and old wives tales about what you should and should not do during pregnancy. One area where many people seem to be misinformed is in the area of exercise. While rumors may claim that exercising while pregnant is harmful to you and to your developing baby, exercise in moderation can actually be one of the most beneficial things an expectant mother can do. It increases your heart rate and the blood flow to your baby, it can improve your posture, decreasing backache and exhaustion, and it can help prepare you for the physical demands of labor. In fact, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women exercise moderately for at least thirty minutes every day, unless they are prevented by a complication or medical condition.
That said, it is not a good idea to put too much strain on your body while pregnant and there are some guidelines that every woman should think about before heading out for a run. For one thing, consider how active you were before the pregnancy. Women who are used to exercising regularly will be able to continue exercising while pregnant with more vigor than those who are active for the first time. It is important, however, to understand your new limits. Most women cannot exercise at the same level as they did before. They need to stay conscious of their comfort level and be careful not to strain themselves too much. Women who were inactive before pregnancy can also benefit from exercise, but should start at a low level. In fact, while a woman who jogged every day may be able to continue her jogging in moderation, low-impact exercises are recommended for all women as having the most benefits with the fewest risks. Regardless of the activity, it is important to keep your heart rate below 140 beats per minute. Women who are competitive athletes may not have to stop in the early stages of pregnancy, but they should be closely monitored by their obstetrician to make sure they are not harming themselves or their baby.
The two exercises most recommended by doctors are brisk walking and swimming. Because of their low impact, these exercises are an ideal starting place for people who were inactive before pregnancy, as well as for people who are continuing an active lifestyle. Other recommended activities include low-impact aerobics, indoor cycling and step or elliptical machines. Many gyms offer special prenatal aerobics classes. These are designed by certified aerobics instructors specifically for pregnant women and are a great way to be active while socializing with other pregnant women. While some sports such as racquetball or tennis may be safe, they can difficult to play, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, when balance and coordination are severely compromised.
There are also, of course, activities that should be avoided while pregnant. High-impact exercises, such as sports that require sprinting, can be dangerous. Anything that requires excessive jumping, bouncing, running or that jars the body can also be harmful. It is not a good idea to hold your breath while pregnant, nor is it a good idea to play contact sports or to risk falling. Any activity that could cause abdominal trauma should be avoided at all costs, including full sit-ups, double leg raises, straight-leg toe touches or twisting at the waist. It can be dangerous to exercise in bursts, followed by inactivity, or to exercise is excessive heat or humidity.
Some women also suffer complications that prevent them from exercising at all. If you have suffered bleeding or spotting, low placenta, previous premature births, recurrent miscarriage, or a weak cervix, it is important to talk to your obstetrician before starting any kind of exercise regime. Exercise during pregnancy may also be harmful to those with conditions such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. That said, as long as they proceed with caution and pay close attention to what their bodies are telling them, most women will find exercising while pregnant to be both enjoyable and beneficial.