Is Vigorous Exercise Safe During Pregnancy?

Vigorous Exercise During Pregnancy is an excellent way to lead a healthy life. An essential part of being active and those who exercise regularly cannot spend a day without a good workout. It is a great way of staying fit and in high spirits. A long run, weight lifts, cycling and other such vigorous exercises are great for overall wellbeing.

What if you cannot continue with a Vigorous Exercise During Pregnancy? With the constant changes in hormones, there are irregular mood swings to deal with as well. A good way of staying in a positive mood is regular exercise. Staying at home and resting is not an option if you like to go for a run every day.

Pregnancy comes with its challenges and every woman deals with them differently. Understanding the changes, you are going through and listening to your body helps throughout pregnancy. Not the same solution fits all. Let us understand why exercise is important but also see why vigorous exercise can be harmful.

Is Vigorous Exercise Safe During Pregnancy?

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Research shows that regularly exercising throughout pregnancy helps in shorter labor with an increased chance of vaginal delivery. Moreover, strenuous exercise is not the cause for induced labor, vacuum, or forceps delivery. However, experts have warned fairly about the risks involved in vigorous exercise.

The first trimester is a delicate stage for the fetus. Lifting weights, running, circuit-based resistance training, and other exercises are strenuous exercises. Such activities can cause your heart rate to exceed 70 to 90% of your maximum heart rate. The standard maximum heart rate is 220 beats per minute minus your age.

If you continue with the vigorous exercise during the first trimester, the risk of miscarriage increases. Experts advise that women refrain from it but continue to exercise nonetheless. The focus should be on maintaining strength and stamina instead of building it.

The best way of staying fit and healthy during pregnancy is by doing yoga. It keeps you mobile, gives you the peace you need for your own wellbeing and your unborn child. However, yoga in the third trimester changes greatly. You will not be able to lie straight on your back or your stomach. This is where you will need the advice of your yoga trainer. The right poses will help you stay flexible and fit.

Negative Impact of Strenuous Exercise during Pregnancy

Since all women are different, the response of exercise will differ for each. If you experience anything out of the ordinary symptoms, you must stop and call your obstetrician immediately. These symptoms include:

  •         Vaginal bleeding
  •         Muscle weakness
  •         Chest pain
  •         Pain in the calf or swelling
  •         Shortness of breath before the start of any exercise
  •         Feeling faint or even dizzy

If you feel sluggish after exercise, it is a sign to stop. On the other hand, you should focus on getting more rest and eat strengthening foods. Moderate exercise will leave you feeling energized and active instead of drained at the end of the day.

Since vigorous exercise pumps the blood flow towards the muscles, the blood supply to the fetus is in danger. Lower blood flow can either increase the risk of a miscarriage or reduce the levels of nutrients reaching the fetus. Both the cases are dangerous for the baby. Either the fetus can be harmed or the weight of the baby at birth can be very low.

High-intensity workouts can lead to prolonged labor with the increased chances of cesarean delivery. Other risks can include injury that can lead to more complications during pregnancy. It is always best to take precautions since the life of your baby and your own is sensitive during pregnancy.

Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy

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Continuing with a strenuous exercise routine after you become pregnant is not a good idea overall. You may need to ask your obstetrician if you can continue. You must avoid some exercises once you have conceived, they are:

Exercises for weight loss.

An average woman gains about 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. The weight gain depends on your previous weight and gaining weight can be emotionally hard. A healthy weight gain is a good sign so continue with a healthy diet. Once your baby is born, you can exercise to lose weight.

 Sports.

Once your belly starts to grow, after the first trimester ends, avoid playing contact sports. Basketball, ice hockey, and soccer have a chance of you being hit on your stomach, so give that up until after delivery.

Fall-prone activities.

Once your belly starts to grow, you will take time to adjust to balancing yourself. Activities like bike riding, horse riding, and skiing require extra skill of balancing. If you use a bike for transportation, it is a good idea to ask your obstetrician on how you can stay safe.

Overdoing it.

Pushing yourself during a workout is good when you are training on normal days. During pregnancy, however, things change. A simple way to test your limits is being able to sing “Happy Birthday” once without running out of breath. If you are unable to get through it, you are overdoing it.

Jarring or bouncing activities.

Your body goes through changes during pregnancy. The joints get loose as the baby grows drawing vitamins and nutrients from your bones. Continuing kickboxing or aerobics is risky in such a state as it can cause injury.

Overheating.

Exercising in the heat can cause dehydration. Avoid exercising during hot days and choose a cooler time like the evening or early morning. If you work out at a gym, choose a gym that has air conditioning. Have a bottle of water always by your side so you are never dehydrated.

Lying on your back.

As the baby grows bigger, the uterus gets heavier making it tough to lie on your back. You can do a few minutes, but soon the weight will cut off the blood circulation to your lower body. This is also harmful to your baby. Avoid yoga poses, crunches, and any other activity where you are required to lie on your back for longer.

 High-altitude exercise.

Exercising on high altitudes is very healthy given the higher air quality and excess oxygen. However, pregnancy brings with it some unusual sicknesses that you may have never experienced before. For starters, stay below 6000 feet and look out for nausea, dizziness, headache, fatigue, and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, call it quits.

Deep-Sea exploration.

When you go underwater, there is a high risk of your unborn child having a decompression illness. The changes in the pressure can be a high risk for you and your baby.

Modifying Exercises.

If you wish to continue your favorite exercise or sport during pregnancy, modify the routine with your obstetrician. These modifications will allow you to enjoy your favorite activities without putting your baby at risk. Make modifications on your exercise routine by:

      •         Reducing intensity
      •         Shortening your workout
      •         Shifting your weight
      •         Using lighter weights

These modifications will allow you to stay active and have a healthy pregnancy. On the other hand, you can read more on the exercises that you should avoid here.

ACOG Recommended Exercises During Pregnancy

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If you want to continue doing cardio during pregnancy, you do not need to run or do strenuous exercises. There are some great exercises to get your heart beating while keeping you and your baby safe from harm’s way. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the following exercises. However, always consult your obstetrician before you settle on one exercise during your pregnancy.

Swimming

Swimming and water aerobics is highly recommended during pregnancy. Since you weigh less in water, there is no pressure on your back and lower part of the body. You will feel more agile and lighter with addition to treating nausea. If you experience sciatic pain, water aerobics is a great way to relieve it. It also soothes your joints and ligaments, which loosen up because of pregnancy.

Be mindful of the slippery sides around the pool and walk carefully. Sit and carefully slid in and out of the pool instead of diving in. When you change the altitudes quickly, bubbles form inside the body. Your baby is not accustomed to handling such abrupt changes that is why deep-sea diving is not allowed during pregnancy.

Walking

Walking is the best way to stay active throughout the pregnancy up until your due date. You do not need any equipment or fancy memberships for a good walk. Doctors recommend at least 45 minutes of brisk walk before dinner in the second and third trimester. You can take shorter and slower walks in the first trimester.

Ellipticals and Stair Climbers

Both are great exercise options during pregnancy. They are safe to use and available at every gym. Adjust the height according to your comfort and continue to make adjustments as your pregnancy progresses.

Aerobics & Group Dance Classes

Zumba and other low-impact aerobics are great cardio exercises for pregnant women. If you are a beginner, it is advised to skip steps that require balancing. Learn to listen to your body and do what makes you comfortable. Do not overdo these exercises that you get exhausted. Water aerobics is the best version of this kind of exercise.

Indoor Cycling

If you have been cycling for at least half a year before pregnancy, you can continue this exercise. It is important to make modifications and tone down the routine. Make sure you get your obstetrician’s opinion before continuing. When you are cycling indoors, you can cycle at your own pace without the risk of falling over. This also keeps you safe from harm’s way, which is unavoidable when cycling outdoors.

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If you are looking for exercises to increase strength and flexibility, there are safe options available. You can do:

Pilates

A routine focused on pregnancy helps in strengthening the core muscles. These help greatly in vaginal delivery. Your muscles get the right impact from Pilate’s exercises, which helps, in relieving backaches and improving your changing posture. If you join a class that is tailored for pregnant women, your flexibility will also improve.

Barre

A barre class is a mixture of Pilates, yoga, and ballet moves. Barre has an amazing effect on pregnant women as it strengthens the lower body. It is a great way to maintain your balance as your belly grows putting you off balance. Make sure the instructor knows that you are pregnant so some exercises can be modified. Barre includes increases that add strain on the abdomen.

Yoga

Yoga is the best exercise option during pregnancy. Prenatal yoga focuses on breathing exercises, flexibility, and relaxation. These are ideal during pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum recovery. There are classes specially tailored for pregnant women so joining one of these would be perfect. Your yoga poses will not include anything that puts pressure on the back and abdomen. Keeping the blood flow smooth during yoga is another important thing you and your instructor should consider.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an old form of meditation. This involves movements that are slow and very flexible. Even if your flexibility levels are very low, you can do Tai Chi with ease. It is also a great way of strengthening your body without any risk of injury. If you have past experience, you should continue. However, if you feel this is something new for you, do not get into it. Yoga is your best bet in such a situation.

You can read more about Exercises for Every Trimester here.

Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy

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A woman’s body goes through hundreds of changes during pregnancy. There are physical changes, mental changes, emotional and even psychological changes. Sometimes those changes are significant, that you may not even recognize yourself. However, understanding these changes can help you deal with them the way they are meant to be.

Most women remain sedentary during pregnancy and this may lead to several complications. If you do not exercise regularly during your pregnancy, you can gain unhealthy weight. Other complications include high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and toxemia. Your baby can also grow too large to be delivered naturally. There is no link to exercise leading to premature birth or the baby being underweight during birth.

Who Should Avoid Exercise During Pregnancy?

There is nothing to fear if you are healthy and do not have any ailing medical conditions. However, women with a complicated medical history go through a carefully monitored time during pregnancy. If you suffer from medical problems like heart disease, asthma or, type 1 diabetes, you should avoid exercising during pregnancy.

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Experts also advise against exercise to women who have obstetric conditions like a weak cervix or spotting during pregnancy. Aerobics should be avoided completely if you suffer from any of the following conditions.

  •         Any significant heart disease that is hemodynamic
  •         A lung disease that causes a restriction in breathing
  •         A cervix that is weak
  •         Multiple gestations that increases the risk of premature labor
  •         If you experience bleeding even in the second and the third trimester
  •         In case you have placenta previa
  •         If you experience premature labor pains in your current pregnancy
  •         In case you have ruptured membranes
  •         Preeclampsia. This is a term used for hypertension-induced during pregnancy
  •         If you suffer from severe anemia
  •         In case you are a heavy smoker, exercising is not advised
  •         If you are obese or extremely underweight

It is best to consult your obstetrician before deciding on an exercise program. Since your doctor knows your medical history, he or she is the best judge for what you must do. While it is important to stay active and healthy through pregnancy, it is essential to stay safe.

Pregnancy is a beautiful yet sensitive time that requires careful selection of activities. Listening to your body is the best thing you can do during pregnancy. Stay active but rest as soon as you feel tired and stay in touch with your obstetrician.

Other related topics you might like to read:

References:

  1.       Colleen de Bellefonds, December 2019, Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy. Available from URL: https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/exercise-safety
  2.       The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, July 2019, Exercises During Pregnancy. Available from URL: https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/exercise-during-pregnancy
  3.       Teri Hanson, October 2018, 5 Simple Exercises for Every Trimester. Available from URL: https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/fitness/5-simple-pregnancy-exercises-for-every-trimester/
  4.       American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, June 2010, Exercise during pregnancy. Available from URL: https://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp119.cfm
  5.       Angel Miller, June 2020, Exercise Tips for Pregnancy. Available from URL: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/290217#types-of-exercise
  6.       Fiter365.com, How To Stay Fit During Pregnancy (And Stay Safe from Pregnancy Complications), https://fitr365.com/heres-how-to-stay-fit-during-pregnancy-and-stay-safe-from-pregnancy-complications/

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