The benefits of exercising while pregnant
Michael Urig, MD, is chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix.
Question: I’m hoping to get pregnant soon, and I’ve always followed a regular exercise plan. Is it safe for me to continue that plan while pregnant?
Answer: Exercising while pregnant is not only safe, but generally recommended for women in good health. Most women should begin an exercise program prior to conceiving, and then continue that program into the pregnancy. Exercise and good nutrition promote a healthy weight gain during pregnancy, and can help a woman better tolerate labor and delivery.
Pregnant women should try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week. Low-impact options like brisk walking, using an elliptical trainer, or swimming are ideal. Strength training using small weights, prenatal yoga and stretching can also be positive additions to a prenatal fitness program. Expectant mothers should use caution when lifting weights, as their joints become more relaxed due to pregnancy-driven hormonal changes, increasing the chance for injury. High-impact and contact sports, such as competitive martial arts and skiing, should be avoided.
Patients who have been active prior to getting pregnant can enjoy many of the same fitness activities. However, it is very important for pregnant women to monitor heart rate when exercising. Expectant mothers should keep their heart rate below 140 beats per minute, and make sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercising.
Women with high-risk pregnancies, other pre-existing conditions, or those who have never exercised should seek guidance from their physicians before engaging in any regular fitness program. And all expectant mothers should talk with their doctors to develop a program that fits their particular needs and fitness levels.
Reviewed December 2010