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There is an old-school myth that if you are pregnant, you should not get your heart rate above 140 beats per minute. False! Ask any pregnant mama and you know that your heart rate can get to 140 getting out of the car with groceries! The truth is that exercise is recommended for moms with low-risk, healthy pregnancies. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends pregnant women, with no complications, get 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic exercise a week (approximately 30 minutes 5 times a week). To gauge your intensity, this level means that your heart rate is elevated and you are likely sweating. You can still talk normally, but could not tell a long story or sing a song. Now, if you exercised intensely pre-pregnancy, and your obstetrician says it is fine, you should still be able to continue at a similar level for the beginning months of pregnancy. However, if you start to lose weight, you may need to increase your calorie intake or decrease your exercise intensity.


What’s interesting is that even if you have not been an exerciser, but have a healthy pregnancy, you too should get moving! Exercise has a variety of benefits in pregnancy including helping to reduce back pain, ease constipation, strengthen your heart and blood vessels, reduce unnecessary weight gain and may reduce your possibility of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and cesarean delivery. Start slow with brisk walking, stationary biking or even gardening.


There are some women who should not be exercising during pregnancy and those include women with:

  • Certain types of heart and lung diseases
  • Cervical insufficiency or cerclage
  • Being pregnant with twins or triplets (or more) with risk factors for preterm labor
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy
  • Preterm labor or ruptured membranes (your water has broken) during this pregnancy regular physical activity
  • Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
  • Severe anemia

There are also some physical changes that happen during pregnancy that you should be aware of when exercising:

  • The hormones produced during pregnancy cause your ligaments and joints to become relaxed, which makes them more mobile and at a higher risk of injury. Try to avoid jerky, high-impact and bouncy exercises, including ones with abrupt direction changes like certain types of group exercise classes.
  • The further you get into pregnancy, the more your balance is altered due to a shift in your center of gravity. This places stress on joints and muscles, especially in the pelvis and lower back area and because you are less stable, it could increase your risk of falling. Try to stick with exercises that don’t require lots of balance.
  • Pregnancy increases your body’s need for oxygen and when you exercise, oxygen and blood flow are redirected to your muscles and away from other areas of the body. This might cause you to feel more fatigued when exercising intensely and require you to exercise at a slower pace.

If you are looking to increase your fitness level, the second trimester is typically the best time to do it. Many women experience more fatigue in the first trimester and may not have as much energy to exercise, so do what you can without wearing yourself out. During the second trimester, energy starts to return and can be a great time to pick up your fitness routine. Once you enter the third trimester, you typically have an increase in belly size and that could make some exercises harder. Try to keep up your routine even if you have to modify the intensity down some. Here are a few more precautions to take for safe exercise during pregnancy:

  • Drink plenty of fluids! Dehydration can make you feel nauseous, dizzy and light-headed, so very important to carry a water bottle with you at the gym or when outside walking. And of course, we would love to see you rehydrate with a refreshing bottle of Knit to cool off after your workout.
  • Wear light, breathable clothes. As a mama, you are releasing the heat of both you and your growing baby, which causes you to get hot faster. Ideally, workout in a cool environment or in air conditioning and wear comfortable clothes. Also, be sure to  wear a sports bra that supports your growing breasts to avoid discomfort.
  • After 16 weeks, try not to do exercises on your back. When you lie on your back, your uterus presses on a large vein that returns blood to the heart. Do abdominal exercises on your side or on a machine to avoid lying flat on the ground.
  • If you lift weights, try to use more machines and less free weights as your belly grows. Because your center of gravity shifts, it can cause some women to experience balance issues when trying to lift free weights.

Remember, it is important to talk with your obstetrician about your exercise program and take the necessary precautions, but choose to stay fit in pregnancy! Exercise can help you stay strong as a mama and help you get stuff done like chase kids, carry groceries and prepare for the little one coming. Keep in touch with us and get Knit Fit!

Cheers!

Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD


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