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Exercise and Pregnancy, The Facts

Mar 21, 2021

Exercise works wonders for mommy and baby during pregnancy. Benefits include boosts in mood, a decrease in many pregnancy symptoms, and a quicker postpartum recovery. Babies also benefit from an active mommy. They experience a number of developmental boosts, which may play a part in them being healthier and more physically active later in life. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that expecting mothers get at least 30 minutes or more of mild to moderate exercise per day (most days of the week).

PLEASE BE ADVISED that when a woman finds out she is pregnant, it is always best to cover with her OBGYN or practitioner to get the okay to exercise. Pregnant women should also take precautions during each trimester when staying active. As a woman’s body changes, her needs and the baby’s needs change as well. When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I needed to change my workout routine. My workouts included heavy weight training and HIIT. From my knowledge, I knew that I could no longer jump or lay on my back for long periods of time. That’s all that I knew, so I had to do my research and learned of other ways to stay active. I also wanted to debunk various myths of exercising during pregnancy.

Some myths include:

1. You can’t exercise your abs during pregnancy.
A common condition that pregnant women undergo is diastasis recti or better known as “ab separation.” Abdominal separation is when the large abdominal muscles separate. It is very common among pregnant women. About two-thirds of pregnant women have it.
When the ab muscles move aside like this, the uterus, bowels, and other organs have
only a thin band of connective tissue in front to hold them in place. Without the needed
muscle support, a vaginal delivery could be more difficult. This condition can also cause lower back pain, constipation, and urine leaking. It can even make it harder to breathe and to move normally.
When exercising, you CAN exercise your abs. For the past couple of months, I’ve been studying for my Pilates Certification. I wanted to learn another form of exercise to add to my own self-practice. I knew that Pilates was one of the safest exercises to do when pregnant. And one of the main DON’TS of exercising when pregnant is to not do any sort of forward flexion entering your third month of pregnancy, because that’ll cause the abdominal wall to rip and separate. Thus, crunches and sit-ups should never be done when pregnant. However, the transverse abdominus should continue to be exercised, because it provides support around the abdomen and it helps push the baby out. The transverse abdominus is the deepest later of abdominals that forms a “corset” around your torso.
The following are some abdominal exercises that are safe to do when pregnant:
- Seated knee lifts
- Side-lying crunches (work those obliques!)
- Side planks
- Modified planks on knees or at a ballet barre
- Squats
--Side-lying leg lifts
- Bird-dogs
2. It’s too dangerous to lift weights.
Later in pregnancy, a woman’s ability to lift a heavy load decreases, mostly because her center of gravity and balance have changed and additionally because her pregnancy hormones have caused her connective tissue, ligament and tendon to soften. In this case, if she were to lift heavy, she is most likely to injure herself more than her child.
The current recommendation is that the maximum load a pregnant woman should lift in
late pregnancy should be reduced by 20 to 25 percent from that which she was able to
lift in her pre-pregnancy state.
I was lifting heavy pre-pregnancy. For example, my max deadlift with the Olympic bar
was 115 lbs x 8 reps, and I was able to do 5 weighted (10 lbs) chin-ups. I’m still able to
lift 25-45 pounds. But as I get further along, I’m aware that I can no longer do certain
movements or lift a certain amount of weight. Now, when I exercise, I stay away from
various machines and weights, because I know I can’t maneuver the same way I did
during my first and second trimester. For example, I do a lot of dumbbell work and
utilize weight ranging between 2lbs – 8 lbs. I understand this may seem like a significant difference, but it’s what my body needs.
3. Exercise will only make you more exhausted.
Pregnancy fatigue is a huge issue amongst women. I experienced it during my first
trimester, and now, I’m beginning to feel it during my third trimester. The reality is,
pregnant or not, exercise does the body good. Exercise can leave you feeling more
energized than lying down. Most people think that a good workout will leave you feeling exhausted throughout the day. That should never be the case. Exercise actually boosts mood and energy, because there’s an increase of endorphins, sleep is improved, heart health is better, and focus is sharpened. Endorphins is the body’s natural hormone that gets released when it requires a burst of energy. Exercise increases those levels. Since exercise allows a person to get a better night’s rest, that person will wake up feeling more refreshed. As for a better heart, when blood flows more efficiently throughout the body, a person can move freely and stress is decreased, reducing blood pressure. Lastly, with the energy boost from exercise, studies have shown improved cognitive function, where people are able to focus better.
Some ways to beat that pregnancy fatigue is to do your exercises outside. Go for a 10-
minute walk, take a hike, or simply get some fresh air. Another way to remain active is
to workout with a buddy or a group class. Being surrounded by other energies that want to workout can be very motivational and it’ll help you remain accountable. And most importantly, hydrate. Drinking plenty of water keeps your energy up and is just overall good for mommy and baby.
The best cardio exercises to do while pregnant:
1. Swimming
2. Walking
3. Ellipticals and stair climbers
4. Group dance or aerobics classes
5. Stationary cycling
6. High-intensity interval training
7. Hiking
The following is a sample workout routine that I modified through each semester of my
pregnancy. This pertains to women in their second trimester:
- Cat/cow (4 reps)
- Hip flexor stretch + mid rotation (4 reps each side)
- Squat + overhead reach (10 reps)
- Stationary lateral lunges (5 reps each side)
[done in 2 rounds]
1A. curtsy lunge + bilateral bicep curl ( 5 – 6 reps each side)
1B. toe taps or bird dogs (10-12 reps)
1C. side planks + thread the needle ( 5 reps each side)
2A. squat holds w/ dumbbell or kettlebell (10-12 reps)
2B. spider planks (5 reps each side)
2C. modified teaser (hold for 30 second)
[done in 2 rounds]


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