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You Don't Deserve Those Dumbbells: Exercising During Pregnancy

exercising during pregnancy

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

“You don’t deserve to use those dumbbells. You’re pregnant. Give them to me.”

Those were the words rudely shouted in my direction the first time I used the gym weight room with a noticeably pregnant belly.

Even now as I type this I can’t imagine somebody actually thinking that was an ok statement to make or even think.

It’s not unusual for people to say dumb things to pregnant women, but this one made my jaw drop in disbelief.  I remember staring in stunned silence, my mouth gaping open like an idiot. In hindsight that was probably a good thing, because who knows what profanities would have poured out of me if I’d gotten my mouth to connect to my brain fast enough. When I finally regained my voice and I semi-calmly told her she could have them as soon as I was finished. Then I wrapped up my workout and angrily regaled the situation to my husband three or four more times than necessary. I finally realized that this lady wasn’t being rude, she was just ignorant. Ok, she was being rude too. But not everyone knows that not only is it safe to exercise while pregnant, it’s recommended!

 

I’ll be the first to admit exercising during pregnancy scared the snot out of me. I did fine through my first trimester, but when I started getting a little belly, I started getting scared. I got so used to hearing terrifying warnings that I started to believe them. By my third trimester, I kicked my fear to the curb and did what I knew was best for me and my baby. I got back to my regular sweat sessions and it was by far the best decision I made in pregnancy.

{And just so you know how irrational I was being, I did my graduate capstone on exercise in pregnancy- I completely knew better.}

So whether you’re pregnant or just see someone who’s pregnant working out, here’s the scoop on what’s safe, what’s not, and when to stop. Of course you should absolutely consult a physician before doing any kind of workout during pregnancy. In certain situations it is not safe.

 

Benefits of Exercise in Pregnancy

  • Helps you maintain a healthy weight with the appropriate amount of weight gain
  • Improves your fitness, strength, & endurance, which can help with labor
  • Helps with better posture, which gets more difficult as your belly grows
  • Can help reduce complications during pregnancy & delivery
  • Fewer miscarriages
  • Eases pregnancy discomforts & labor
  • Improves mental well-being

The benefits are loud & clear. How about the risks?

  • Fetal distress
  • Hyperthermia
  • Miscarriage
  • Maternal injury

Now that you know the benefits and the risks, here’s who shouldn’t exercise {remember, always check with your doc first}.

Don’t exercise if you have:

  • Placenta previa
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Physical injury
  • Severe chronic disease or illness
  • Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain

And no matter what, stop exercising if:

  • You feel faint
  • You’re overheated
  • You start bleeding
  • Anything feels “wrong”

General Guidelines

  • Don’t go longer than 4 hours without eating before exercising
  • Don’t eat 1 hour before exercising {although this may vary person to person}
  • Eat some carbs while exercising if it lasts more than 30 minutes
  • Drink up! Adequate fluid intake is more important than ever.
  • Don’t get too hot- exercise indoors (in the AC!) if it’s warmer than 80 degrees outside
  • Don’t exercise lying on your back after 16 weeks
  • Be careful with stretching
  • Aim for 30 minutes most days of the week
  • {An old recommendation for prenatal exercise was to keep your heart rate below 140 bpm. Then it moved to 155 bpm. The current guideline is to exercise at a perceived rate of exhaustion {PRE} of 4-6, meaning it feels “somewhat hard” but not quite “very hard”.

For further information and sources used for this post, please visit:

Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines from the American Pregnancy Association

Physical Activity for Everyone from the CDC

Exercise During Pregnancy from WebMD

 

Did you exercise when you were pregnant? Will you next time around?

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