We know some of you may be feeling nauseous and lethargic. Exercise is the furthest thing from your mind. But it is important for both you and your baby. If you want to feel better both mentally and physically, then throw on your sneakers and start exercising.
You may have a lot of questions or not be sure what to do. Your mom, boss, and friends are all telling you different things. Plus, what you read on the internet conflicts with everyone’s expert opinion. So who is right? Your doctor or midwife is the ultimate boss, so make sure to clear any exercise plans by him or her first. Sort out the facts from the wives’ tales.
Here are five of the myths and rumors you may be getting bombarded with:
Myth: "Don't Exercise, You'll Hurt the Baby!"
Says who! In a study of almost 1,500 U.S. women, the rate of exercise-related injuries during pregnancy was 4.1 per 1,000 exercise hours. Of these injuries, the majority were bruises or scrapes (55%). That gives you some pretty good odds! You are more likely to hurt yourself by tripping on an uneven sidewalk on your way to the gym.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) formally recommend, “In the absence of either medical or obstetric complications, ≥30 minutes of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week is recommended for pregnant women.”
And the benefits? The benefits of physical exercise are infinite. Exercise during pregnancy can:
- help reduce backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling
- help prevent or treat gestational diabetes
- increase your energy and improves your mood
- improve your posture
- promote muscle tone, strength, and endurance
- help you sleep better
There are also many potential benefits for your baby. Dr. James F. Clapp is an international authority on the effects of exercise during pregnancy. During one of his studies, he found that babies of women who continued to exercise throughout their pregnancy:
- tolerated the stress of the contractions much better
- had significantly decreased incidence of cord entanglement
- had no difficulty with early weight loss and regained their birth weight rapidly
- performed better on standardized intelligence tests at ages one and five
Myth: "There Are No Safe Exercises for Pregnant Women."
You do have a legitimate excuse to bench yourself from some activities. Collision sports, such as hockey and basketball should be avoided as should sports with a high incidence of falling, such as skiing and horseback riding. Since a protective cup for your belly hasn’t yet been invented, you need to avoid the risk of trauma to your baby through a direct blow or fall. Tuck those riding boots and skates away for a few more months.
However, there are many different types of exercises that are safe during pregnancy:
- Walking is a good exercise for anyone.
- Swimming is great for your body because it works so many muscles.
- Cycling provides a good aerobic workout.
- Aerobics is a good way to keep your heart and lungs strong.
- If you were a runner before you became pregnant, you often can keep running during pregnancy, although you may have to modify your routine.
Myth: "Too Much Exercise Will Take Nutrients Away From Your Baby."
Some believe that exercise reduces the rate of oxygen and nutrient delivery to the developing fetus as the body shunts blood away from internal organs to supply the exercising muscles. This won’t happen. The normal physiologic adaptation to pregnancy is increased cardiac output and blood volume. This additional blood flow constitutes a significant portion of your pregnancy weight gain. Additionally, the placenta (the organ that connects the baby to the mom’s blood supply) is designed to ensure constant nutrient delivery during a healthy pregnancy. There is no retrospective evidence to suggest that exercise leads to fetal distress, premature delivery, or low birth weight.
Myth: "If You Never Exercised Before Pregnancy, Don’t Start Now."
Don’t listen to these people. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) encourages pregnant women to be evaluated before starting a new exercise program and participating in low-impact activities. Stretching, walking, pelvic floor exercises and breathing exercises are also safe. Besides the psychological health benefits of feeling better, releasing stress, sleeping better, and clearing your head, women show physical improvements in their cardiovascular endurance, blood pressure levels, body fat index, muscular strength and endurance, and maximum heart rate.
A supervised and structured exercise regimen provides little if any risk to the mom or baby. That being said, pregnancy isn't a time to be ultra-competitive. It’s a time to take care of yourself and the little one in your belly.
Myth: "Don't Let Your Heart Rate Get Higher Than 140 Beats Per Minute when Exercising. And Don't Exercise for More Than 15 Minutes."
How do you know how hard to work out? You need to measure how you feel, not what your heart rate monitor reads. The “talk-test,” developed by the ACOG, is when the expecting mother works out at an intensity where they can speak three to five word sentences. Anything less, they are working out too hard, anything more, they can pick up the pace within their comfort level.
You should be able to hold a conversation and not feel overheated or out of breath. If you can’t speak normally while you’re working out, you’re probably pushing yourself too hard. This could lead to vaginal bleeding, uterine contractions or other problems, according to Dr. Roger W. Harms, of the Mayo Clinic.