Exercise during pregnancy: Should you or shouldn't you?
May 18, 1999
Web posted at: 12:11 PM EDT (1611 GMT)
By Miriam Nelson
|IF YOU HAVE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING MEDICAL CONDITIONS, YOU SHOULD NOT ENGAGE IN ANY EXERCISE DURING YOUR PREGNANCY:|
| Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure|
| Preterm rupture of membrane|
| Preterm labor during current or prior pregnancy|
| Incompetent cervix|
| Persistent second- or third-trimester bleeding|
| Intra-uterine growth retardation|
(WebMD) -- Like many pregnant women, you may have questions about exercise. If regular exercise is new to you, is it safe to start now? If you already exercise, should you continue your usual regimen or would it be better to slow down a bit? Should you do something completely different?
What exercise can do for you
Exercising during pregnancy can benefit you in many ways. Exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It can decrease back pain and improve posture. And exercise helps with digestion and weight management, increases your energy, reduces "postpartum belly," and conditions the heart and lungs. It also may prevent or control gestational diabetes. Exercising can even improve the labor process because of the increased strength, stamina and flexibility you develop, and it can contribute to a faster postpartum recovery.
Listen to your body
If you haven't been exercising, now is not the time to start a rigorous program. Talk to your doctor first. It's likely that he or she will suggest moderate activities for fitness such as walking and swimming. If you're already an avid exerciser, you can probably continue doing the exercises you normally do. Just be very sensitive to how you feel. If you're too tired, take a nap and then take a walk! You must listen to your body during this very important time in your life.
Here are some useful guidelines for cardiovascular exercise. It is critical to begin slowly and allow your body's core temperature to adjust and warm up for the first three to five minutes of exercise. Only low-impact and low-intensity aerobic exercise is recommended, such as walking, swimming, stationary cycling and low-impact exercise classes. Your heart rate should not go above 140 beats per minute unless your obstetrician advises you otherwise.
During pregnancy you should exercise three or four times per week, with each session lasting 20 to 30 minutes each. A cool-down period is also recommended. This allows the blood in your exercised muscles to return to your heart and uterus. Stretching is a perfect way to conclude the cool-down in your cardiovascular workout, as it minimizes stiffness, improves posture, and reduces the risk for injury. You should stretch all the major muscle groups -- such as legs, chest, back and shoulders -- and hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Weight training during pregnancy is recommended only with light resistance and 12 to 15 repetitions, two or three times a week. After the first trimester you should avoid exercises that require you to lie on your back. Remember to breathe normally throughout the exercise session, and stretch slowly and thoroughly when you're done.
Don't exercise if the weather is hot and humid, since overheating your body can hurt the fetus. And drink lots of water, regardless of the weather -- it's vital to keep enough fluids in your body. Dehydration is the last thing you want right now.
For most pregnant women, a little exercise goes a long way toward making pregnancy a healthier and more comfortable time. But you should talk to your doctor if you have any questions about whether a particular type or program of exercise is safe for you.
Copyright 1999 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
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