As a physical therapist, I often get asked questions about exercise. Recently, a woman reached out for advice on safely exercising during pregnancy. An active young woman who has worked out most of her life, she wanted to be sure to do it safely while pregnant with her first child.
Would it harm the baby? What activities were safe? Were any activities harmful? Finding no reliable information about it online, this mom-to-be had a list of questions that she needed clarified for her peace of mind. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that with an uncomplicated pregnancy (non high-risk), exercise is safe and beneficial for both baby and mother. The organization recommends avoiding activities that have a high risk of falling or involve excessive heat, especially during the first trimester. Follow these guidelines for safe, prenatal exercise during a healthy pregnancy:
walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, Pilates, jogging/running, and racquet activities
moderate level of activity, in which the mother can still hold a conversation
Safe duration and Frequency:
at least 20 to 30 minutes regularly
Unsafe activities: Scuba diving, contact sports, hot yoga/Pilates, activities with a high risk of falling, and those that require lying on your back for long periods of time
Prenatal Exercise Special Considerations
Stay well hydrated
Eat before exercise
that is expected to last more than 45 minutes.
If sedentary before pregnancy, approach a new program slowly
Avoid excessive stretching
due to laxity of ligaments.
Most importantly, listen to your body
. Often, it will let you know whether something is appropriate or not.
Benefits of Prenatal Exercise
Exercise during pregnancy offers many benefits, including making labor and delivery easier, a faster recovery from childbirth, an improved psychological well-being, an enhanced mind-body connection, increased bond with baby, reduced swelling, improved balance and lower risk of pregnancy-related complications like gestational diabetes.
Pregnancy brings postural changes that develop into muscle imbalances, and these can be managed with exercise. Pregnant women and new mothers often report neck pain, back pain, impaired core strength and shoulder pain, all of which can be addressed through appropriate exercise. Movements that develop core strength—in particular exercises that target abdominal and mid back strength and flexibility in the shoulders and chest—can help address these postural shifts.
Physical therapists, through an assessment and posture evaluation, can be a wonderful resource for developing an individualized, prenatal exercise program. Sarasota Memorial Rehabilitation Services offers a range of solutions to help mothers on their journey through pregnancy and beyond.
Sarasota Memorial Physical Therapist Kristi Kliebert, who holds a doctorate in physical therapy, works with all kinds of patients, including moms-to-be, to help them reach their personal health and wellness goals.