You must have come across the Instagram photos and videos of 29-year-old Beki Gerrard in which the 38-weeks-pregnant lady was seen lifting heavy weights with a fully-grown baby bump. A personal fitness trainer by profession, Beki claims to have worked out for 30 minutes, 6 days a week, throughout her pregnancy, until the morning her water broke.
Don’t Exercise If You’re Expecting Twins
Inspired as you might be by Beki as an avid exerciser yourself, remember that while exercising is necessary during pregnancy, it may not be for everyone. As per the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, if you are suffering from complications like heart or respiratory diseases, are pregnant with twins or triplets, have pregnancy-induced hypertension, or suffer from anemia, you’d have to give it a miss.1
Go Aerobic If You Have An Uncomplicated Pregnancy
Of course, if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, you are free to include low-impact aerobic exercises into your daily routine, but even then, it’s okay if you can’t match up to Beki.
In fact, you ought to do aerobic exercises at 70 percent of your maximum heart rate for just 3 days a week2 or 30 mins of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days a week, even staggered into 10-minute installments through the day.3
Just Watch Out For These Warning Signals
But even if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, stay alert and inform your ob-gyn as soon as you see any of these warning signals:4
- Vaginal bleeding
- Chest pain
- Headache or feeling weak and dizzy
- Shortness of breath even before starting to exercise
- Pain or swelling in calf muscles
- Pain in the pelvic area
- General muscle weakness
- Fluid leakage from the vagina
Exercises To Avoid During Pregnancy
Every woman’s body reacts differently to pregnancy; for that reason, it is difficult to make a blanket rule or statement regarding what could prove harmful. But here are a few recommendations that research makes.
Remember, if you are an avid and expert exerciser anyway and have been doing any or all of these exercises for a long time, you can continue, of course in moderation and after consulting your ob-gyn. However, if you are not much of an exerciser, do not sign up for any of these during pregnancy.
Any Contact Sports Like Soccer Or Kickboxing
According to a report in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal, researchers say that although most sports and recreational activities in moderation have been found to be harmless, it is best to avoid activities associated with a high risk of abdominal injury.5
So avoid contact sports like soccer, hockey, or lacrosse where you have a greater risk of colliding with others or getting hit with the sport equipment. Also avoid judo or kickboxing6 because you might not have the reflex and the agility now to protect yourself from errant jabs and punches.
High-Impact Racket Games
As much as you might want to rule the court with powerful smashes, avoid high-impact sports like squash or tennis any other racket game with jerking, bouncing motions. The risks are many: you may injure your joints, get hit by the ball, suffer a fall because of your altered balance, get overheated, or get dehydrated. Even if you are an adrenaline junkie, avoid scuba diving when you are pregnant.7 And not just scuba diving, diving into the swimming pool is also a strict no-no.
Games With A Risk Of Fall Injuries
The same goes for sports that pose the risk of fall injuries like horseback riding, ice hockey, trampolining, rollerblading, skiing, and gymnastics.8 The risk of falling increases as your body balance becomes sensitive and often unpredictable.
Hot Yoga Or Hot Pilates
Yoga or Pilates performed under hot and humid conditions can make you more flexible and help you lose weight faster, but it’s not something you ought to do as a mom-to-be. These pose the risk of getting the body heated up. Studies have proven that exposure to heat in the form of hot tub or sauna in the early stages of pregnancy increases the risk for neural tube defects or birth defects of the brain, the spine, or the spinal cord in the baby.9
Any Exercise That Involves Lying On Your Back
Surely, your doctor has already told you to not sleep on your back because your baby’s weight may press on your vena cava, the major vein that carries blood back to your heart from your lower body part. For that same reason, avoid exercises that involve lying on your back, especially after 16 weeks.10 This could include even simple yoga poses like wind-relieving pose or simple leg lifts in a supine position.
Any Exercise That Involves Bending Forward
With a bump in your belly, it’s unlikely that you can still touch your toes. But don’t let that inability drive you to push yourself harder. You shouldn’t bend forward to exercise, especially after the first trimester. Your weight is unevenly distributed and forward bends at the waist or hip will place greater stress on your lower back. They can also induce heartburn or dizziness.11
While there is no conclusive research on whether resistance training and lifting heavy weights are harmful to the mother and fetus, other research suggests that women who are used to doing high-impact exercises need to modify or tone it down during pregnancy.12
An article in the Strength & Conditioning journal mentions that overhead lifting is a no-no as it involves postural changes that can place increased stress on the lower back. If you must lift heavy weights, substitute front raises, lateral raises, and reverse flies with shoulder presses13 while sitting or standing but not while lying down.
Whether a pro or a first-timer, whatever exercise you perform, proceed with caution and take these precautions:14
- Stay hydrated, whatever the level of fitness and activity. Drink fluids before, during and after exercise.
- Avoid exerting in hot, humid environments.
- To balance out lost calories, maintain an adequate caloric intake (an additional 300 kcal/day) so as not to compromise the fetal growth.
- Wear loose clothes to keep the body temperature regulated.
- Avoid standing still for too long as this can cause blood to pool in your legs and feet. This slows down blood flow to the heart and may cause your blood pressure to decrease.15
So, to conclude, for the most part, exercise benefits the mother and the baby. However, if you are suffering from conditions like hypertension, diabetes, or PCOS, or have a history of miscarriages, speak to your ob-gyn and fitness trainers before taking up any exercise.
Have a happy, active pregnancy!
|↑1, ↑3, ↑4, ↑8, ↑15||Exercise During Pregnancy. ACOG|
|↑2||Larsson, Linnea, and Pelle G. Lindqvist. “Low‐impact exercise during pregnancy–a study of safety.” Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica84, no. 1 (2005): 34-38.|
|↑5, ↑7||ACOG Committee on Obstetric Practice. “Committee opinion# 267: exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 99, no. 1 (2002): 171-173.|
|↑6, ↑12||Artal, Raul, Carl Sherman, and Nicholas A. DiNubile. “Exercise during pregnancy: safe and beneficial for most.” The physician and sportsmedicine27, no. 8 (1999): 51-75.|
|↑9||Milunsky, Aubrey, Marianne Ulcickas, Kenneth J. Rothman, Walter Willett, Susan S. Jick, and Hershel Jick. “Maternal heat exposure and neural tube defects.” Jama 268, no. 7 (1992): 882-885.|
|↑10||Exercise in pregnancy. NHK|
|↑11, ↑13||Schoenfeld, Brad. “Resistance Training during pregnancy: safe and effective program design.” Strength & Conditioning Journal 33, no. 5 (2011): 67-75.|
|↑14||Fazlani, S. A. “Students’ Corner Protocols for Exercise during Pregnancy.|