How to Work Out During Pregnancy

Exercise, with some modifications, has benefits during and after pregnancy.

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Exercising is safe if you are healthy and having a normal pregnancy. It won't cause you to have a miscarriage or early delivery. But it is important to consult with your OB-GYN before beginning any regimen, whether you're a person who already works out or someone who wants to begin doing so during your pregnancy.

Exercising while you're pregnant will keep you leaner, more energetic, and less achy than you'd be without it, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Also, physical workouts can help prevent conditions related to pregnancy, such as hypertensive disorders or gestational diabetes, a 2021 Journal of Perinatal Medicine article reports.

It's also a way to stay connected to your body during and after pregnancy. Here are a few ways to work out safely when you're pregnant.

Warm Up and Cool Down

Warming up is crucial before a workout, especially when you're pregnant. It prepares your muscles and joints for exercise and prevents muscle strain. Warming up also builds your heart rate at a more moderate pace. Since your heart rate is naturally higher during pregnancy, give yourself extra time to warm up and also to cool down at the end of your workout. Allow at least five to 10 minutes of light stretching afterward to allow your heart to return to its resting rate and prevent post-workout soreness.

Stay Hydrated

Drink water before, during, and after a workout. Becoming dehydrated can cause contractions or raise your body temperature to an unsafe level. While there's no official recommendation for how much water to drink, a good guideline is one cup of water before, one cup after, and one cup every 20 minutes throughout the duration of your workout.

Avoid Lying Flat on Your Back

Lying on your back puts pressure on a major vein called the inferior vena cava. Too much pressure on the vena cava can reduce blood flow to your heart and uterus, causing you to feel dizzy or nauseated. This warning usually applies to people who have "popped," as it's the weight of the belly that puts strain on the other body parts. But to play it safe, avoid lying flat altogether, especially if you weren't very active before pregnancy.

Keep Moving

Avoid workouts that have you standing in the same place, like lifting weights or holding yoga poses for prolonged periods of time. When you stand still for too long, you can decrease blood flow to the uterus and start to feel dizzy. Instead, stick to workouts that keep you moving. Los Angeles-based personal trainer Kourtney McCullough suggested exercises including swimming, walking, a prenatal "yoga-flow" class, or Pilates.

Play It Safe

Avoid contact sports and any activity that might throw off your balance, such as skiing, horseback riding, and gymnastics, the ACOG advises. As your belly grows, you're likely to be less stable on your feet. And even if you're normally graceful, be mindful that during pregnancy, the hormone relaxin, which loosens your pelvic joints to get you ready for childbirth, will also relax other ligaments and joints in your body, making you more susceptible to injuries.

Don't Overdo It

Whether you're a seasoned athlete or fitness novice, you should know that pregnancy is not the time to lose weight or begin a rigorous workout routine. Pregnancy is about maintenance and feeling healthy. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, as long as you have the go-ahead from your healthcare provider. Beginners should start with five or 10 minutes a day and slowly build up to 30 minutes on all or most days of the week.

If you experience symptoms like dizziness, chest pain, increased shortness of breath, uterine contractions, or vaginal bleeding, stop exercising and call your healthcare provider.

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