Staying active and fit during pregnancy

The associated weight gain and physical demands of a growing and developing baby require special attention to staying fit.

During the three trimesters of pregnancy a woman’s body will endure many physical changes. Daily physical activity is recommended for all women during child bearing years. Michigan State University Extension says that women can safely continue to exercise during pregnancy, unless special health conditions dictate otherwise. 

Speak with your health care provider to discuss your level of fitness and a suitable weekly physical activity plan. Most pregnant women can follow the current physical activity recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate-intense exercise each week and should strive to maintain this goal throughout their pregnancy, to reap the many benefits of staying active. Pregnant women should also meticulously follow safety guidelines and avoid activities that have the potential of falling causing abdominal injury such as contact sports, downhill skiing or horseback riding. 

The reality of weight gain is a natural part of pregnancy. Women are often concerned about gaining more weight than is recommended during pregnancy. This is a viable concern so be sure to discuss nutritional needs and healthy weight gain parameters with a health care provider. The MyPlate website also provides nutritional information specific to pregnancy and breastfeeding. Committing to being physically active 150 minutes each week or better yet, 30 minutes most days of the week, is a key component to prevent rapid or excessive weight gain during pregnancy. If you have a challenging schedule, one that hinders a 30 minutes time block for exercise, you might consider including three, 10 minutes segments. Recent research shows breaking up your daily physical activity sessions into shorter sessions will provide health benefits. 

Exercise during pregnancy boosts a woman’s energy level, improves one’s mood, helps to increase stamina and muscle strength. Women should also be aware that staying active throughout pregnancy helps to prepare for labor and delivery. Pay special attention to your heart rate - if you cannot talk normally while you are exercising, you are probably exercising at a rate that is too vigorous. You should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising without being short of breath. Be sure to drink plenty of water and include stretching both before and after your exercise sessions. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also recommends that pregnant women, who have not previously been physically active, start slowly with just five minutes of activity in the beginning. Gradually increase the amount by five minute intervals over the course of several days or weeks, until you are reach the recommended level of 30 minutes a day of moderate-intense physical activity. Good options for pregnant women are walking, swimming and cycling on a stationary bike. Strength training is allowable but pregnant women should avoid lifting heavy weights. Pay careful attention to any warning signs, feelings of discomfort, and immediately stop and call your health care provider. 

Pregnancy is a tremendously important time for a woman. Though there can be a natural tendency to want to eat for two and relax, the health of the mother and baby is at stake. Remember that nutrition is critical during pregnancy and equally as important is daily exercise which provides both physical and emotional benefits for women.

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