Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a time when you are confused about even the littlest things which you would have otherwise done matter-of-factly. Take exercising for instance. Most pregnant women fear that exercising during pregnancy could harm the baby or cause miscarriage. This is a huge misconception as both are untrue. Exercise during pregnancy is perfectly normal and mostly harmless, unless you’ve been advised otherwise because of health issues or pregnancy related complications.

Exercise during pregnancy is recommended not for weight loss, but to keep you fit and active. Even exercising for 20 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week is good enough. So if you were physically active before pregnancy, there’s no reason why you should discontinue it. However, you also need to take care not to overdo it and stress yourself. But before you start on your fitness regime, it’s recommended that you talk to your medical practitioner and get the green signal.

Read: Benefits of Yoga During Pregnancy

Why should you exercise during pregnancy?

  • Exercising during pregnancy can help you ward off a whole lot of complications besides improving your physical and mental well-being.  Here’s how it can benefit you.
  • Helps strengthen the pelvic and other muscles involved during the process of labour
  • Improves your posture
  • Keeps a check on your weight gain
  • Boosts your energy levels and keeps your mind, body and heart healthy
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Reduces stress and lifts your mood
  • Reduces the risk of pregnancy related complications like gestational diabetes and even pre-eclampsia
  • Helps you fight-off niggling pregnancy problems like constipation, backache and fatigue
  • Prepares your body for labour and childbirth; helps in reducing the duration of labour
  • Studies show that pregnant women who exercise regularly, significantly decrease and prevent the risk of a caesarean birth
  • Faster recovery post-pregnancy
  • Helps you bounce back to your pre-pregnancy shape faster
Read: Shaping up after pregnancy

What are the safe exercises?

When you’ve got the all-clear from your doc, choose exercises that you’re comfortable with, but those which don’t stress your baby. Many exercises are safe during pregnancy, but it’s important that you maintain moderation, especially if you’re a beginner.

Most doctors recommend 20-30 minutes of exercises at least 4 times a week. Walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, yoga and stretches are all safe. However, you may have to reduce the intensity as your belly starts growing bigger.

Swimming particularly is one of the best exercises during pregnancy. It keeps your back, leg and arm muscles strong while relieving niggling pains and aches. There’s also another great advantage – the water supports the weight of your growing body, and moving against it improves your heart rate.

Read: Exercising Right During Pregnancy

When is it not safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Some of you maybe strictly advised against exercising to protect your health and that of your baby. If you experience any of the following, you will be forbidden from exercising by your doctor- either temporarily or all through your pregnancy – depending on the severity of the condition.

  • Persistent 2nd or 3rd trimester bleeding
  • A history of heart problem
  • Dizziness
  • High blood pressure
  • Risk if pre-mature labour
  • Expecting twins or more
  • Chronic respiratory conditions like wheezing, asthma  or bronchitis
  • Ruptured membranes (when your water bag breaks)
  • Reduced foetal movement
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest/leg pain
  • Contractions
 Read: Weight Training During Pregnancy – Do’s and Dont’s

What should you avoid exercising?

  • Exercises that involve holding your breath for an extended period of time
  • Exercises that strain your abdominal muscles
  • After the first trimester, avoid exercises that involve lying flat on the back. This posture can limit the flow of blood to your baby.
  • Activities that involve bouncing, jumping, hopping

Things to remember

  • Don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion. Increased heart rate can limit the oxygen supply to the baby, which could prove to be risky
  • Make sure to maintain your body temperature to avoid overheating
  • Avoid exercising when you’re feverish
  • During the second trimester, it’s normal for your blood pressure levels to drop. So do keep in mind to avoid exercises that involve sudden and jerky movements.
  • The extra weight you gain during pregnancy puts a lot of weight on your muscles and joints, so be careful not to overwork them.
  • Pregnancy hormones, like relaxin, soften the ligaments. Over straining makes you prone to joint injuries.

Some Tips

  • Start with a 10 minute warm-up
  • Aim for at least 4 sessions of exercise a week
  • Your body knows best! So don’t go beyond your fitness limits
  • Wear 2-3 layers of clothing to avoid overheating. Wear light, natural fabrics that allow your skin to breathe
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercising
  • Give a gap of at least one hour between eating and exercising
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes along with a supportive bra
  • Wear comfortable well-fitting shoes

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