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Exercise during pregnancy

Kelly Dale, MD, is an obstetrician/gynecologist on staff at Banner Baywood Medical Center. Her office can be reached at (480) 543-6754.

Question: Is it safe to continue my exercise routine if I am pregnant?

Answer: Yes, exercise during pregnancy is safe and recommended in most cases. However, there are certain types of exercise and sporting activities that should be put on hold to help ensure the safety of both mom and baby.

Generally speaking, aerobic activities like brisk walking, swimming, aerobics classes, cycling and even running for those who ran prior to conception can be safely continued during pregnancy. In addition, weight bearing exercises are also considered safe. However, women are advised to discontinue contact sports and activities that require a high degree of balance since a woman’s center of gravity is altered during gestation, ultimately increasing the risk of falls. Therefore, activities such as skiing, gymnastics and even some exercise ball movements and maneuvers should be avoided.

Recommendations on how much a woman should exercise during pregnancy vary and are heavily influenced by her pre-pregnancy exercise routine. As a general rule, pregnant women are encouraged to get 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each day. Women who were not active before becoming pregnant should gradually work up to 30 minutes of exercise a day over the course of several weeks. In most cases, those who were accustomed to workouts longer than 30 minutes a day can safely maintain their exercise regimen during pregnancy.

It’s no secret that regular exercise nets healthy rewards. For pregnant women, the benefits are twofold since exercise also improves pregnancy health and outcomes. A reduction in body mass index (BMI) through proper diet and exercise lowers a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes while the increase in endorphin release experienced during exercise can boost her mood and help her better cope with the stressors of pregnancy. Furthermore, improved endurance, muscle strength and better back/core strength can be helpful in minimizing lower back pain commonly associated with pregnancy as well as improve tolerance of the labor process.

While there is no evidence to suggest that proper exercise during pregnancy harms the fetus or increases the risk of pregnancy complications such as preterm birth or low birth weight, pregnant women should always take precautions and consult with their obstetrician before beginning any exercise program. Be sure to discuss exercise type, frequency and intensity and determine whether you are at risk of any pregnancy complications for which exercise is not recommended. If you experience vaginal bleeding, uterine contractions, fluid leakage, dizziness or chest pains while exercising, stop the activity immediately and be evaluated by a physician.

More information about exercise during pregnancy can be found on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website.

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