As my belly continues to grow, making it quite obvious to the outside world I am expecting, I have found that attitudes toward fitness and physical activity during pregnancy are often still quite out-dated. During the summer months I do garden maintenance … this is quite physically demanding. I have also continued to jog and do cardio/weighted routines throughout my pregnancy. I cannot tell you how many” “BUT you’re PREGNANT!!!!!!” comments I have received, both from family and from near strangers. This response usually comes when they learn I am still doing a job that is physically taxing or that I still jog 3 miles and lift weights. The shock (and at times accusation in their voices) can be quite uncomfortable to deal with. It seems the days of a pregnant woman not even being able to lift her own groceries are still embedded in the minds of many.
However, even the ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends that pregnant women get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity/day. And truth be told, this is probably more activity than many non-pregnant women (and men) in our society are getting. Ofcourse, pregnancy affects the body in many ways and this makes certain physical activities “off-limits” or “high-risk.” Additionally, each woman’s obstetric history and condition needs to be evaluated by a licensed health care provider before she starts/continues a fitness routine during pregnancy. Certain conditions may contra-indicate exercise completely. However, chances are that if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, physical activity is probably recommended by your OB or midwife. In my case, I was given the green light to continue running and lifting weights by my doctor, simply adjusting my routine as necessary.
So what are the pros of exercise during pregnancy?
The ACOG lists all of the following as benefits of exercise during pregnancy (1):
- Reduction of backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling
- May help prevent or treat gestational diabetes
- Increased energy
- Improved mood
- Improved posture
- Promotes muscle tone, strength, and endurance
- Promotion of better sleep
- May improve the ability to cope with labour. Labour is a cardiovascular activity ladies, so the more in-shape your cardiovascular system the better.
As I entered my 24th week of pregnancy I really started to notice I was getting emotional. Up until this point I hadn’t really experienced the “hormonal” state that everyone was talking about. Well, week 24 brought with it days when I felt I had a ball of frustration or sadness in my chest and I really could not explain this. Thank you hormones! I have found that one of the best things for me on these days … was usually the last thing I would feel like doing: jogging, walking, swimming, yoga etc. But honestly, exercise has really been my remedy these past few weeks and I am feeling that this stage is slowly passing.
Another tip, make sure you are eating enough if you are an active mama-to-be. This is super important! I learned during my first trimester if I didn’t add some extra calories on my exercise days I would often find myself with a headache or just feeling a little more fatigued than usual. Adding an extra snack of protein and healthy fat was the perfect after work out treat – both for me and for baby.
But what types of exercise are safe?
The ACOG recommends that walking, swimming and aerobics are safe for most pregnant women (as allowed by her physician). Additionally if you were very active before pregnancy you can usually continue your routine as long as it is comfortable (jogging etc).(2). There are many exercise classes available for moms-to-be as well, prenatal yoga and pilates classes are great options.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy cause the joints of the body to loosen, making them less stable and more injury prone. (2) This means paying attention to form, footing and posture is extra important. Additionally, the centre of gravity shifts as the baby grows which may contribute to clumsiness. (2) I noticed around week 18 my jogging routine needed to be slowed down as my ankles were becoming increasingly sore if I ran for too long or too fast. The key is to listen and tune-in to your body, some days I alternate 1 mile of jogging with 1 mile of walking. Other days I simply take a shorter route.
Here are the ACOG guidelines for exercise during pregnancy, I found these helpful as a reminder that I need to give myself appropriate limitations (2):
- Do not do exercises on your back after the 1st trimester. This means no crunches ladies, let that belly grow!
- If it has been some time since you have exercised, start slowly. Begin with as little as 5 minutes of exercise a day and add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.
- Avoid brisk exercise in hot, humid weather or when you have a fever.
- Wear comfortable clothing that will help you to remain cool.
- Wear a bra that fits well and gives lots of support to help protect your breasts.
- Drink plenty of water to help keep you from overheating and dehydrating.
- Make sure you consume the daily extra calories you need during pregnancy.
I have managed to safely continue to be active throughout my pregnancy and I think it has greatly contributed to how amazing I have felt! I have yet to experience many of the negative symptoms common to pregnancy (edema, backache, sore feet + legs, extreme fatigue etc). Yes things are much harder, I can do about 1/2 as many push ups as I used to be able to do. But common’ I have put on 20lbs. Yup the secret is out….. at 26 weeks I had gained 20lbs. In the end, all that really matters is that baby is growing and mama feels great! Still a whole 14 weeks to go, so I am hoping to keep semi-active for most of that time. Remember that in the 3rd trimester exercise may become more limited and you may want to slow down to more gentle activities like walking and swimming (best thing to do is keep open communication with your doctor about how you’re feeling and what you are doing). I also really think that staying active now will make it much easier for me to bounce back after baby has arrived. I will definitely keep you guys updated with my progress but so far, here are my baby bump pics!
Reminder: this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice, but only as informational and based on personal experience. You should never enter into any treatment protocol/supplementation/exercise without the advice of a licensed naturopathic doctor or other health care practitioner. For more clarification on this please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page.