Many women want to know if they can exercise during pregnancy. The short answer is yes. Women who were active pre-pregnancy often want to continue that lifestyle; for others, exercise during pregnancy is just a means of keeping fit. Given that pregnancy is a unique period of life for most women, there are several new factors to consider.
During pregnancy, there are multiple hormonal, physiological, and biomechanical changes that occur in the body. These changes include increased blood volume and heart rate, weight gain, and a shift in the center of mass. The American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) recommends for women, who are experiencing a healthy pregnancy, to engage in moderate physical activity for at least 20 to 30 minutes per day, both during pregnancy and postpartum. Walking is a great way to get exercise without overly taxing the body, as it provides aerobic conditioning with minimal stress on the joints. Other good choices include swimming, low-impact aerobics, stationary cycling, and light-weight strength training.
Some exercises to avoid are any that require lying supine after the first trimester. The enlarged uterus can create pressure on the vena cava of the heart and poor circulatory perfusion. This could lead to nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Contact sports, or any that pose the risk of falling, should also be avoided for fear of injuring the abdomen. Hot yoga and/or hot Pilates are discouraged due to the possibilities of heat stroke and fainting. Exposure to such high levels of heat can be harmful to the baby, as hyperthermia can cause neural birth defects like spina bifida.
When exercising, always remember to warm up, stretch, and cool down. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and be careful to avoid overheating. Any questions about specific activities during pregnancy should only be answered by a healthcare provider. Pregnancy is an opportunity for positive lifestyle changes that can be carried into the postnatal period as well.