The Truth About Working Out While Pregnant
The Truth About Working
Out While Pregnant
I was at the gym one day when I was pregnant with my daughter and a sweet older man approached. He asked if I was ok and offered to walk me out. In his mind, women should not be working out while pregnant. He was very sweet and well-intentioned, but what he knew of pregnancy policies came from 50 years ago, when fitness was not encouraged at all in pregnant women, (and neither was breastfeeding!).
I assured him that I was feeling great and following my doctor’s orders. I’m relieved that we have more knowledge today and can recognize the benefits of exercise for a pregnant woman. But how often and how intense should a workout be for a mom-to-be?
Benefits of Working Out
Staying active while pregnant:
Leads to less weight gain
Less overall aches and pains
Less lethargy and trouble sleeping
Reduces anxiety and depression
Increase blood flow which prevents swelling and varicose veins
Lowers the risk of developing gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia
Leads to easier labor and delivery
Studies even suggest benefits for baby:
A boost in brain health
Better heart health
Lower stress in utero
Working out is a huge stress reliever for mom too and can help her confidence! Plus, moms who work out while pregnant are more likely to continue their routine postpartum.
If you’re ready to keep working out while pregnant here are some simple tips:
Make sure you are cleared by your doctor first!
If you’re worried about specific moves or techniques - like whether it’s ok to do a HIIT workout - here is a rule of thumb I go by: If I am straining, I don't do it! What do I mean by straining? For instance, you do not want to pick a weight that is so heavy you are losing proper form. Don’t do a move that makes your core visibly strain and cone. For me, I saw this in pullups, pushups (unmodified), planks, and many core exercises by the 4th month. Can you work hard? Yes! Can you push yourself (within reason)? Yes - just listen to your body. Expect to get fatigued faster and your heart rate to be faster. Take more frequent and longer breaks and make sure you have plenty of water.
Have a plan. Be generous with yourself and realize this is just a plan, not a contract. There are days where you will need to listen to your body and stray from the plan - but having one can help you stay on track. Simply saying, “I'm going to be active this pregnancy”, isn't going to really help you stay active. I think it is most helpful when we have a plan mapped out on our calendar as to what the goal is for the week.
Get creative! The further along you get, the more you will need to modify. Bands, for example, are a great piece of equipment to integrate into workouts!
Choose facts over fear! What do I mean by this? All the misinformation out there can be overwhelming. You don’t want to do anything to put yourself or your baby at risk. But don't just believe what you hear! Fear can be paralyzing. Do your own research and consult with someone who is pre/post-natal certified, (like me!), so you can understand facts.
Remember, your journey won't look like someone else’s. Depending on how active you were before, and what kind of pregnancy you’re experiencing, your goal may be to go on walks 4 times a week with some lifting while another mom’s goal may be to lift 4 times a week with some running. This doesn't matter! Movement > no movement!
Every day is not pretty, but that’s ok. Some days, a two-mile walk feels like a marathon. Other days, working out doesn't happen at all. And some days I feel ready for lifting and the stair stepper! The point is, just keep showing up and taking care of yourself. It won't be perfect, but it will be worth it.