Should you exercise while pregnant?
There's a lot of conflicting information out there about exercise and pregnancy. Some believe that exercising can cause early labor, a low birth weight, or even miscarriage. The idea that you shouldn't exercise AT ALL is an old-fashioned one, and modern research shows it's clearly outdated. In fact, current guidelines in the US recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week for pregnant women! Staying active throughout your pregnancy will help keep your mental state even (with all those pregnancy hormones!), mitigate side effects like constipation and swelling of the feet and legs, and even prevent complications to you and your baby during pregnancy and labor. Not all forms of exercise are equally beneficial, though. Let's take a look at what you should or shouldn't do, assuming you have a healthy pregnancy with no risk factors:
The most important thing is how active you were pre-pregnancy. If you were already in a routine, it is fairly safe to keep at it with slightly reduced intensity, though you'll need to make modifications the further along you are. If you weren't exercising regularly, though, you'll want to start very light and work your way up slowly. We're talking 5 minutes of light exercise, and adding a minute or two on each day. Activities like walking, swimming, yoga, stationary cardio, Pilates, and strength training are fantastic choices. In your second trimester, your center of gravity will begin to shift as the baby grows, so it's important to work with someone who can modify your routine to account for your shifting balance. During this time, you'll also want to limit time spent on your back while exercising, as the weight of the uterus can put pressure on blood vessels running through your abdomen and reduce blood flow to you and your baby.
No matter how fit you were before, you'll want to avoid high-impact exercise for most of your pregnancy. Any exercise where you could fall or take a blow to the womb is out. That includes contact sports, off-road biking (motorized or not), horseback riding, and sports where collisions are possible. You'll also want to avoid exercising after a significant change in altitude, so no scuba diving or skydiving, sorry thrill-seekers! Lastly, extremely high temperatures for longer than 10 minutes can cause problems with your pregnancy, so avoid hot tubs, saunas, and Hatha yoga sessions.
Of course, all of these are just guidelines. Always consult your doctor before you begin or continue a routine while pregnant, and consider if you have any risk factors or complications that would make exercise dangerous for you. But, if you're healthy, you'll benefit from staying active!