Can you exercise while you're pregnant?

Published On: Jun 04 2013 01:47:32 PM PDT   Updated On: Jun 20 2013 07:58:23 AM PDT
pregnant, mother, woman

By Meredith, Pure Matters

Let’s get the awkward bit of the way first: I’m pregnant. Right now. You can’t see the soccer ball I’m hiding under my shirt, but I assure you that it’s there. I’m also still hitting the gym -- though I’m certainly not at the level I was six months ago, I’m still exercising. (I felt like I should tell you that, in case you were reading this and thinking, “What does this woman think she knows about pregnancy and exercise?” I know! For real!)

And I know firsthand that it’s easy to get that big fat positive pregnancy test and then immediately start listing all the reasons you should skip the gym.

You might do something that hurts the baby.
You’re exhausted.
You’re supposed to be getting extra calories anyway, why add exercise to the mix?!

It’s easy to think you can’t. It really is. And maybe you can’t do exactly what you were doing before, but you can do something. I had stretches of days (maybe weeks) where I thought I can’t, but ultimately, the benefits of exercise during pregnancy got me up from my perch on the couch. Those benefits, straight from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, include:

Most of those benefits can help address common pregnancy complaints -- and while my back still hurts no matter what I do, I also sleep extremely well, I’ve had very little trouble with swelling, and my energy levels are improving. And that last benefit about strength and endurance, I suppose that might come in handy in the delivery room -- but I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Now, if you’re pregnant and I’ve convinced you to get moving, what can you do? First of all, before you do anything: Talk to you doctor. If you’re already fit, he or she will likely give you a heartbeat-per-minute ceiling to stay under (mine was 140 bpm, which I found to be incredibly boring), and permission to go back to your usual routine. If you’re just getting started, you’ll likely get a customized slate of beginner exercises.

You’ll want to make smart decisions -- I gave up bootcamp and tabata, because the classes were crowded, the floors would get sweaty, and I didn’t want to fall or get bumped. (Basically, you should avoid any situation where you might fall -- skiing, roller derby, jousting, hockey, etc.) What exercises you can do varies by trimester, so keep the lines of communication with your doc open at every appointment. Meanwhile, here are a few things you can do safely, regardless of trimester:

Regardless of what exercises you choose, hydrate as much as you possibly can, even if it means stopping for a bathroom break. If you start to feel dizzy, lightheaded, or weak during a workout, by all means: stop. More important, if you start to bleed, stop. The bottom line is that now more than ever, it’s important to listen to your body. It’ll tell you what it needs, and if you’re pushing yourself too hard.