Here are some of the best reasons to exercise when you are pregnant, which I have gathered from a variety of sources.
- Better psychological wellbeing
- Reduced incidence of gestational diabetes
- Decreased incidence of preclampsia
- Reduced lower back pain
- Improved weight management
- Improved fetal development
- Easier or shorter labor
- Decreased risk of premature labor
- Greatly reduced incidence of abdominal surgery during delivery
Of course, it’s important to modify your workout to accommodate and support the pregnancy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work out as hard. Maintaining the workout intensity you had going into your pregnancy is exactly what you want to do. It’s not time to start a new program. It is time to work the core in three planes of motion to strengthen the abdominals for pushing during labor. When I work with expecting moms at my training facility at the Bentley Reserve in downtown San Francisco, I advise them according to the following parameters.
Guidelines for working out while pregnant
- First and most important: Avoid direct impacts to the belly. Duh!
- Eat a little something before you workout to avoid hypoglycemia.
- Pregnant women are prone to joint instability due to increased levels of the hormone relaxin in their blood. As the joints loosen up to prepare for birth, they need to be extra careful not to stretch too far and to always breath into the stretch. To compensate for joint laxity, I train my pregnant clients with higher repetition ranges and slower speeds in order to reduce joint stress.
- I make sure that my pregnant clients don’t use the valsava maneuver (holding the breath to execute a heavy lift) because it increases the heart rate and blood pressure. We keep the breath flowing.
- I make sure that my natal clients don’t exercise in hot conditions or for too long. In the first trimester, particularly, it’s crucial to regulate body temp, because the fetus cannot regulate its own internal temperature yet. (Note that this research is questionable and many scientists think that the initial studies — which were performed on animals — weren’t actually accurate. However, we take no chances.) In cool San Francisco, this is not usually much of a problem. But I do recommend to my clients that they avoid hot yoga classes while they are in the early stages of pregnancy.
- Always stay well hydrated! Especially before, during and after exercise. I recommend 8 oz. of water before working out, 8 oz. every 15 minutes while exercising, and then 8 oz. after, just for good measure. Another rule of thumb: if you dehydrate during your workout, weigh yourself, and drink a pint of fluid for every pound lost.
- I recommend 2 minutes of rest between lifting sets. At the same time, it’s important to move, instead of simply standing or sitting still, because motionless can cause pooling of venus blood and slow down cardiac output.
In my next post I’ll list some exercise to avoid once you reach the second trimester.