Prenatal Fitness Tips
Q: I’m pregnant and am worried about continuing my running and strength-training program. This is my first pregnancy and I want to make sure I don’t do anything to cause a problem. Do you have any suggestions for what types of exercise are safe during pregnancy?
A: Congratulations on your pregnancy! You’re already well on your way towards making this time healthy for you and your baby by including fitness in your lifestyle. Research has shown that a prenatal fitness program can provide benefits such as:
- Decreased fat gain
- Reduced physical discomfort
- Increased energy
- Shorter and less complicated labor and delivery
- Faster recovery postpartum
It’s important to get your healthcare provider’s consent before starting or continuing an exercise program during pregnancy. In addition, if you develop any problems during your pregnancy talk with your doctor or midwife to make sure it’s safe to continue your exercise program.
You can continue to run during your pregnancy as long as you feel good and don’t experience any pain or discomfort. As your pregnancy progresses you may need to cut your distance or speed to continue running comfortably or switch to another form of exercise if running becomes difficult. Remember, pregnancy isn’t the time to be training for a marathon or for running high mileage everyday. Use common sense and always apply the risk/benefit test – is the risk to you and your baby worth what you’ll get out of the activity? For most activities like walking, biking and running the risks are very low, but for others, such as running high mileage in hot, humid weather, scuba diving and water skiing the risk is too high.
Strength training is a great addition to a pregnant woman’s fitness program. The stronger your muscles are the less risk you’ll have for developing injury from daily activities. In addition, a strong upper body helps new moms have the strength to lift her baby many times each day.
You should start any new activity slowly and progress only when you feel ready to move up in intensity and duration. A good rule of thumb is exercise at a level that feels moderate to somewhat hard-meaning you feel challenged but the exercise isn’t so difficult that you can’t carry on a conversation. As pregnancy progresses modify your fitness program by reducing intensity (how hard you’re working out) and how long you work out to keep the activities comfortable.
There are lots of ways to learn more about prenatal fitness-from classes offered at local fitness and hospital centers to books, videos and websites. Check out Amazon.com to find a large offering of prenatal fitness books and videos.
For those of you who aren’t able to join a class but would like to be part of an online prenatal fitness program check out www.babyfit.com. This site provides great exercise and diet information, as well as forums that offer daily motivation and support. www.babyfit.com