When you’re expecting, keep moving! Fit experts and science agree: Exercise during pregnancy makes for much happier, healthier moms. It can even lessen the chance an expectant mother will require a cesarean section up to 20 percent. Just 30 minutes of daily, moderate activity a day helps you not only maintain a healthy weight, but you’ll sleep better and feel better overall, Baby Centre notes.
“There are a lot of benefits (to pre-natal exercise),” says personal trainer Renee Stein from Franklin Athletic Club in Southfield. “One just being staying generally fit for your (peace of) mind.”
Exercise can naturally relieve that new beautiful baby stress. Not to mention, staying active curbs the munchies and keeps off that baby weight. When you’re pumping iron, you’re not on the couch counting the minutes to your next potato chip. Daily energy release lessens pregnant women’s chances of developing gestational diabetes, too, which plagues 9.2 percent of expectant mothers.
So, you may not think pregnancy the best time to start working out, but it’s the perfect time.
Pre-natal workouts “reduce backaches, bloating, constipation, increases your energy, helps you sleep better and promotes muscle strength,” which will come in handy in the delivery room says Diane Peurach, the group exercise director at the Beverly Hills Club.
We asked these fitness gurus to share some tips for exercising while pregnant – and how to stay fit beyond birth. Here’s what they had to say.
Check with your physician
“First and foremost: Speak with your doctor first,” Stein says. While you can join as many fitness forums and follow as many healthful blogs as you’d like, each pregnancy is different. What may prove beneficial for you and your little one’s health may not prove ideal for all mommies.
Let your body guide you
At the end of the day, you’re the one who’s pregnant. Keep in mind, nausea comes with the baby bump and doesn’t necessarily serve as an excuse to slow your roll. Mild exercise coupled with hydration and healthy eating can even relieve morning sickness. Still, pregnancy is not the time to experiment with a new extensive routine, Stein says.
“The most important thing is to listen to your body. And make sure you stay hydrated, especially during the first trimester,” Peurach says.
Modify your routine
Generally, expectant mothers can keep with their old workout routine during the first trimester, but as baby grows, you’ll modify your regimen, says Stein. She warns that what once felt comfortable can get uncomfortable around the 6-month mark. Modified planks and cat-cows comfortably strengthen your abdominal and pelvic muscles.
Gradually omit high impact exercise like jumping and balance-oriented techniques. For instance, if running becomes uncomfortable, Stein recommends lower-impact cardio, such as the elliptical. Omit balancing acts like step-ups and lunges, because your baby bump throws off your center gravity and makes it easier for you to fall.
Beware: the non-negotiables
Generally speaking, you don’t want your heart rate to exceed 140 beats per minute, especially if you’re new to the workout game. “If you’re already physically active, that’s relatively low,” Stein says. “Feel it out.” If you’re comfortable, you can allow your heart rate to get higher. “If you feel anything unusual, you should stop,” Stein adds. This includes excessive sweating, dizziness – or if you have a hard time breathing or find it difficult to talk.
“A big thing not to do is to lie on your back after the first trimester,” Peurach says. Lying on your back for extended periods of time reduces your maternal heart rate and decreases blood flow to the fetus.
“You want to avoid a high heat index,” Peurach says. “Stay hydrated. And do not exercise if you have a fever.” Remember, when you’re hot, your baby’s hot, but unlike you, he can’t sweat.
Just keep swimming
Swimming wins the best pre-natal exercise award, because it’s almost zero impact and it keeps your temperature low, Stein says.
The runner-up? Yoga. The relaxation techniques prove especially beneficial during the first trimester, because they allow you to stay low to the ground and in the same position for extended periods of time, which negates nausea and dizziness Peurach says.
Don’t get the leftover-baby-bump blues
“You must be cleared by your physician to do any activity,” Stein emphasizes. For natural birth, mothers are typically requested to wait six weeks before exercising again. For mothers who had C-sections, they must typically wait eight weeks, sometimes longer.
New-mom bodies typically require nine to 12 months for everything to go back to pre-pregnancy, physiologically speaking, Peurach says.
Give it time. Start your post-natal routine focusing on your inner muscles that baby spent the last nine months stretching out and loosening up. The shapely benefits will come naturally.
“Crunches aren’t the best idea. I suggest focusing more on core stabilizing (techniques),” Stein says. For instance, do modified planks slowly and correctly, not oodles of weighted crunches. You’re not doing yourself any favors if you promptly jump into a rigorous routine; in fact, you’re likely to cause more damage, Stein adds.
When baby keeps you up all night, you may want to snooze any chance you get, but exercise keeps you at your best. While it may seem counterintuitive, working out actually gives moms more energy to play with their little ones.