So you have a little one on the way. Congratulations! You're sure to want to be in your best shape for pregnancy, and maybe even itching to do a little bit of exercise. However, the stigma of exercising when pregnant may be holding you back. You might have heard that doing so will only make you feel more exhausted, for instance, or even cause a miscarriage.
Fortunately, none of this is true. Researchers from the University of Alabama found that 68% of medical professionals are comfortable recommending exercise to improve sleep quality and strengthen both mom and baby. In fact, you can even continue resistance training while pregnant! It's all a matter of taking precautions and listening to your body throughout the process.
But if you’re still in doubt, here are some tips you can follow to do resistance training safely while pregnant.
Get medical clearance
Though exercise during pregnancy is generally safe to do, underlying health conditions may prohibit a small population of pregnant women from exercising at all. That's why it's crucial to first talk to local healthcare providers, like family nurses, before doing any exercise. Many family nurses today have a post master's nurse certification, so they are able to take care of patients of all ages. It also goes beyond treatment, as advanced courses have allowed them to hone their skills in disease prevention, counseling, and health and wellness education for families.
This holistic approach allows family nurses to serve as a premier solution for your family's healthcare amid the ongoing physician shortage. If you're at risk for premature labor, develop preeclampsia or placenta previa, or have a restrictive heart or lung condition, a family nurse will be able to diagnose you right away and even gauge how much exercise your body will be able to take over the course of your pregnancy.
Only take on as much as you can handle
When pregnant, your goal should be to simply maintain a reasonable level of fitness. When you’re medically cleared to exercise, only do as much as your body can take. Maintain your current level of exercise and taper it off as your pregnancy progresses. For example, if you only do resistance training occasionally, it's not recommended for you to increase the intensity of your workouts while pregnant.
The same principle applies to when you exercise. Try to keep it to three days a week at maximum, and on non-consecutive days. According to the seminal study Resistance Training During Pregnancy: Safe and Effective Program Design, this gives your muscles ample time to recover between workout sessions and helps you avoid overtraining. Meanwhile, only exercising after meals can help prevent hypoglycemia.
Focus on your core
In general, full-body workouts, such as training with dumbbells, while doing movements ranging from push-ups to squats and lunges, are recommended. This will prevent blood from pooling in any one area of the body. However, pay special attention to strengthening your core, as this will support your pelvic organs and lower back as your pregnancy progresses.
Some pregnancy-safe core exercises include modified side planks and yoga positions like the bird dog and cat-cow poses. Don't forget to exercise your pelvic floor too — simply clench and unclench the muscles you use to control the flow of urine. By strengthening both your core and pelvic floor, you'll be poised for an easier delivery and quicker recovery after birth.
Know when to stop
Your range of motion will be more limited during the third trimester, so you'll have to tone down the intensity of your workouts, as well. For example, you can swap out weights for resistance bands. These will not only strain your back less when carried but are versatile and can help you do the same exercises weights do.
However, being cleared for exercise at the beginning of your pregnancy doesn't mean you'll still be cleared when it ends. If you experience dizziness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or signs of preterm labor, stop exercising immediately and contact your local healthcare provider.
By working out at your own pace and seeking the guidance of health professionals constantly, you can easily continue resistance training into pregnancy. Just remember: your goal is to stay fit, not build up muscle!
Written by Amy Loxely for gorillabow.com