Exercise and Pregnancy: Things to Consider

05 March, 2020
Exercise during pregnancy carries many health benefits. However, you must have your doctor's approval and take certain precautions, especially if you weren't very active before.

Should you exercise during pregnancy? Some people think that expecting a baby means a woman should rest and sit still. In c0ntrast, some believe a pregnant woman should be continuously active.

Experts agree that exercise during pregnancy is very advisable. However, you must be aware that not all disciplines are appropriate. Also, being constantly active isn’t a good idea, either. There are many health benefits to exercising during pregnancy. For example, it improves your mood, relieves backaches, prevents joint problems and stabilizes bowel movements. So, how can you stay active without hurting your baby?

Keep reading to find out.

Exercise during pregnancy and intensity

First of all, it’s always best to consult your doctor and have them approve your exercise plan. If you exercised frequently or practiced a sport before pregnancy then you’ll just have to do some small adjustments. If, on the other hand, you had a sedentary lifestyle, you must begin with easy exercises and progressively increase the intensity.

Doctors recommend at least two and a half hours of aerobic physical activity for those who don’t regularly exercise. Pregnant women who exercised regularly should simply lower the intensity a bit.

In general, any woman can stay active during pregnancy. The only cases in which this is not convenient are:

  • When there’s vaginal bleeding.
  • If there are early contractions.
  • When the mother has pregnancy-induced hypertension.
  • Or if there’s an early rupture of the amniotic sac (that is, if your water breaks).
A group of pregnant women exercising.
There are few contraindications to exercising during pregnancy, so always consult your doctor to be safe.

Keep reading: Four Ways to Exercise when You’re Pregnant

The first trimester

The first pregnancy trimester is the most complicated for some women. Take it easy if you feel excessively tired during this stage or experience frequent dizziness and vomiting. Exercise may not be your priority at this time. If you’re up for it, a simple walk will do.

The most appropriate way to begin exercising, especially if you don’t usually do it, is to start with body-mind exercises, such as adapted yoga, elastic band resistance, and pilates. Your body has a lot going on during the first three months, so don’t overdo it.

Practicing a sport is only advisable if you practiced it before your pregnancy. Stay away from contact sports, though. Otherwise, walking at a rapid pace, especially on steep terrain, is the best form of exercise during this stage. Climbing staircases is another great activity throughout this time.

The second trimester

The second trimester is the most appropriate stage to exercise during pregnancy. The most advisable activities are those that can help you develop strength and endurance. However, heavy weight-lifting and contact sports are strongly discouraged.

Fast-paced walking is still the best activity to do during pregnancy. Likewise, swimming is also a great alternative. This is because swimming:

Also, regular Kegel exercises are strongly encouraged. Also, doing pilates and yoga can help strengthen your pelvic floor. You can also pedal a stationary bike for 20 minutes, three times a week (unless your doctor suggests otherwise).

A woman swimming.
Swimming and hydrotherapy are very helpful physical activities during pregnancy.

Find out more: Eleven Habits You Should Avoid When You’re Pregnant

The third trimester

Exercising during pregnancy in the third trimester is a little more complicated due to the weight of the belly. This limits movements and creates greater balance problems. It’s not a good idea to just sit still, but don’t overdo any activity.

Walking is still a great activity throughout this time, as it’s a great way to stay fit. Doctors also recommend doing yoga and pilates. However, you must add postural control sessions and breathing exercises to do so.

Exercise and pregnancy: Conclusion

It’s important to follow a proper diet and stay well-hydrated when you’re active at all stages of pregnancy. Also, you must wear appropriate clothing, especially a well-fitting comfortable bra. Get up slowly when you exercise in a sitting position, especially on the floor.

Pregnant women shouldn’t practice sports such as water skiing, mountaineering, scuba diving or intense aerobics. Similarly, racket sports, sports gymnastics or horse riding should only be done in moderation, and as long as a woman already practiced them before her pregnancy.

Aguilar Cordero, M. J., Sánchez López, A. M., Rodríguez Blanque, R., Noack Segovia, J. P., Cano, P., López-Contreras, G., & Mur Villar, N. (2014). Actividad física en embarazadas y su influencia en parámetros materno-fetales: revisión sistemática. Nutrición Hospitalaria, 30(4), 719-726.