New York City Registered Personal Trainer Debunks Exercise and Pregnancy Myths

“All aerobic exercise is out.”

“Stretching is dangerous.”

“If you don’t usually exercise, don’t start while you’re pregnant.”

“The only real reason to exercise while pregnant is to help lose baby weight.”

Basically, for the next 40 weeks, you’re a petri dish and should eat a lot, take vitamins, and stay still … very very still. If it were up to those meddling grandmas (sounding very Scooby Doo here), most women during pregnancy would be bubble wrapped. We can’t blame them. They’re excited to spoil those babies.

Pregnancy, though not without its ups and downs and excitement and discomfort, is a time where most women are vital, healthy, and free to exercise, move, stretch and more.  In fact, physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for early mortality worldwide.

With a few exceptions, then, for a healthier pregnancy, birth, and post-partum period, exercise is recommended! Here’s a list of the most common exercise myths that limit the lives of women while pregnant.

prenatal.exercise

  1. Keep exercise non-aerobic while pregnant. It’s perfectly fine to get your heart rate up while pregnant. Many high-performance athletes continue with their exercise regimes. That said, it’s vital to be mindful of your body while exercising and not push yourself to a point of fatigue as this could affect the fetus (perhaps now isn’t the time to train for a triathlon).
  2. If you exercise, you’ll overheat your body and hurt the baby. Overheating, especially during the first term, can be dangerous for a fetus and its development. Take the necessary precautions to keep you and your baby safe:
    1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. While pregnant, you need more hydration. During pregnancy, you need to boost your water intake to 12-13 glasses/day, even more to reduce core temperature during exercise and replace fluid lost during exercise.
    2. Dress well: Wear loose, breathable clothing while exercising to keep your body temperature down.
    3. Be mindful of your body and its temperature. If it’s hot and muggy outside, exercise early in the morning or late in the evening. Stop if you feel dizzy, pain, or shortness of breath.
  3. Everything should be non-impact. During pregnancy, a woman’s body changes. Loosening ligaments and joints can make a woman more vulnerable to injury. Extra weight can be uncomfortable. Plus, there’s a shift in the point of gravity that women are working to adjust to. The key to safe exercise, then, is often balance. A fall could really hurt a baby. If you’re an avid runner, try to stick to more level terrain.  Consider alternating runs with low-impact exercises (swimming, the elliptical, yoga).  And in your last term, take it down a notch. And always, always listen to your body.
  4. Don’t start an exercise program while pregnant. Why not? Just like everybody else, health professionals recommend pregnant women get 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. This could be walking 30 minutes/day, going to swim class, doing yoga. Exercise is healthy … for everybody. And what better moment to start taking better care of your body than while pregnant?
  5. The only reason to exercise while pregnant is to lose weight faster after the baby is born. Your body is growing another human being. This is pretty phenomenal. Though exercising while pregnant can help manage weight, it should not be an end goal.

prenatal exercise

I love working with women, helping them navigate those rough waters of pregnancy. There are MANY benefits of exercising while pregnant. Here are just a few:

  1. Exercise eases the ache of your lower back. Most women have lower back pain while pregnant. Water workouts and weight training can alleviate back pain.
  2. Exercise helps with bowel health One of the most common discomforts during pregnancy is constipation because of the boost in progesterone and growing uterus. Exercise, hydration, and a high-fiber diet, keep your digestive track on track.
  3. Exercise boosts energy levels. Pregnancy can be an energy vacuum for some. Exercise, even just ten minutes of brisk walking, can put a spring back into your step and help you push through the long afternoon.
  4. Exercise can help control gestational diabetes. Diabetes is when blood glucose levels run higher than they normally would. One way to lower blood glucose levels is to exercise.

Pregnancy is one of the most fantastic, mysterious, intimidating times in a woman’s life. Myths abound. Always, always consult with your OB/GYN before starting on any new exercise program. Go to your regular prenatal checkups. And when the opinionmeter hits a high, telling you not to do something, nod, smile, and say, “Thank you. I will keep that in mind.”