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Safe Exercise During Pregnancy

The Top 20 Do's and Don't of Safe Exercise During Pregnancy

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#1: Consult Your Doctor, Specialist or Midwife

Before starting a new program or continuing with your current exercise program during pregnancy, talk with your Doctor, Specialist or Midwife for their advice. They can tell you any special precautions you will need to take with your exercise program to ensure that you perform safe exercise during pregnancy, as well as recommend how often you should be exercising.

#2: Wear Loose-fitting, Breathable Clothing, Supportive Shoes and a Supportive Maternity Bra

It may be necessary to layer your clothing and remove the outer layer when at the peak of your workout to avoid overheating. If your feet are swelling, your shoe size may change and make it necessary to buy new athletic shoes for exercising to properly support your ankles and feet.

#3: Exercise Regularly

If you're committed to exercising and staying fit throughout your pregnancy, do so on a regular basis. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most if not all days of the week, unless you have a medical or obstetric complication.

#4: Watch Your Heart Rate & Avoid Overdoing It

Exercise at your own comfort level. It is recommended to keep your heart rate below 140-150 bpm, but check with your doctor first.

#5: Be Aware of the Effects of Relaxin

Your body will begin releasing more of the hormone relaxin during your pregnancy. Just as the name implies, relaxin relaxes your ligaments and joints. Therefore, you need to be more careful with stretching not to over-stretch and avoid contact sports after the first trimester or as advised by your Doctor.

#6: Do Pelvic Floor Exercises

As your baby grows and the weight increases, it will be important to have strong pelvic floor muscles for support. Learn how to correctly perform Kegel's pelvic floor exercises here.

#7: Monitor Your Rectus Diastasis

To self-test for rectus diastasis or abdominal muscle separation, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your fingertips just above or below your belly button. Lift your head and shoulder off the floor and at the same time press your finger firmly against your stomach, feeling for any separation between the bands of your abdominal muscles (the bands that run vertically). If the separation is greater than two fingers width, you should be careful not to strain your abdominal muscles as you exercise and should talk to your doctor.

#8: Watch Your Posture

It is important to keep your joints in alignment with good posture. Think about a straight line going through your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle as your stand upright. Imagine having a nice jewel right in the area where your collarbones come together. Lift and show off this jewel by pretending you are being pulled up by your breastbone. Then, pretend your pelvis is a bucket of water and the top of the bucket is at waistline. Keep the bucket level by either tucking in your pelvis or sticking your tailbone out depending on your normal standing posture. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles and maintain tension in this area while doing other activities.

#9: Keep Glucose Solution (i.e.Gatorade) with You and Drink Throughout Exercise

This helps accomplish #10 and #11 below...keeping your blood sugar level steady and drinking plenty of fluids.

#10: Eat Carbohydrates Before Exercise & Eat a Little More

Realize that your blood sugar levels can change rapidly during pregnancy and try to eat food containing carbohydrates a couple hours before exercising. It's a good idea to have juice with you to drink if you start to feel faint or dizzy. If this does happen, slow down or stop exercising. Also, you will be burning more calories during exercise and want to make sure you still get the necessary caloric intake for you and your baby. Therefore, you may want to eat slightly more than normal.

#11: Drink Plenty of Water

Dehydration can occur if you don't drink enough fluids. This can cause contractions and increase your body temperature, at times to levels that are dangerous for both you and your baby. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking about two glasses of water two hours before exercising. You can also weigh yourself before and after exercise and drink two more glasses of water for every pound you lost. Those pounds lost are most likely water weight, not fat, and a good sign that you should drink more water to avoid dehydrating.

#12: Take Time to Warm Up and Cool Down

Many times it is easy to skip the warm up or cool down of an exercise program. However, when you are pregnant, it is important to take the time to properly warm up and cool down to prevent blood pooling in your legs or leg cramps.

#13: Get Up From The Floor Slowly and Carefully

Your center of gravity is located at your sacrum (S2) just below your belly button. However, that location shifts during pregnancy. Therefore, you should take your time when changing positions because getting up quickly can make you dizzy and cause you to lose your balance.

#14: Use Caution if Exercising at Higher Elevations

Use caution and avoid exercise at least the first 4-5 days when at high altitudes of 8.250 ft or higher.

#15: Realize that you shouldn't feel pain with exercise.

You may feel mild soreness or fatigue, but make sure to stop exercising and seek advice if you experience any of the following: dizziness, faintness, headaches, blurred vision, nausea or vomiting, any kind of pain or numbness, discomfort or excess fatigue after you have exercised, vaginal bleeding, contractions, leaking of amniotic fluid, or reduced movements of your baby.


#16: Don't Overheat - Avoid outdoors when it's hot & humid

Exercising in hot, humid weather can make you prone to overheating. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that your temperature (taken under the arm) should be less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit after exercising. Other things to look for are clammy hands, hot or cold flashes.

#17: Don't Exercise For Long On Your Back After 19 Weeks

It is not recommended to stay lying on your back for long periods of time after 19 weeks. There are exercises that can be altered to laying on your side or on your hands and knees.

#18: Avoid heavy weights, bouncing, contact sports or any activities/exercises that cause pain.

It is recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology that you exercise during pregnancy at a moderate level. Therefore, avoid heavy weights when exercising. Instead, try low weights and high repetitions as long as it still feels like a moderate level to you. Because your joints are more relaxed than normal from the relaxin hormone, it is best to avoid contact sports or any activity that could make you fall, increasing risk of injury to your abdomen.

#19: Don't stop suddenly during exercise

Suddenly stopping during exercise can lower your blood pressure or cause dizziness or lightheadedness. Always make sure to do a proper cool down.

#20: Don't Hold Your Breath During Exercise

As with any exercise, try not to hold your breath. For instance, if you are lifting a light weight, breathe out while lifting and breath in while lowering the weight to a starting position.

Get more pregnancy workouts here.

Learn Four Pregnancy Abdominal Exercises.

Return from safe exercise during pregnancy to Abs Exercise Advice home page.


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