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Pregnancy and Exercise

December 20, 2012 by Marc Faktor, Certified Exercise Physiologist

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exercising while pregnant

Pregnancy is a great opportunity for women to continue or start an exercise program, and prioritize their health and lifestyle behaviours as they’re preparing to bring a new baby into the world. Information and advice about what type of exercise to engage in, and what level of physical exertion is acceptable can be confusing and leaves many women unsure of whether it’s safe to exercise during pregnancy.The physical and mental benefits of physical activity is overwhelming. New evidence has shed light on the importance of keeping active before, during, and after pregnancy to optimize the health of the mother as well as the newborn! You can walk, swim, cycle, or find something that you like to do that gets your body moving and heart working.

Start out with 15 minutes per day. This can be increased to 30 minutes per day when you feel comfortable. As a general rule, try to be physically active at least three times per week to get the maximum benefits for you and your baby.

Being physically active can help you feel better during some of the changes that happen to your body during pregnancy. Some of the benefits of regular physical activity are:

  • Improves your posture and helps reduce back pain. 
  • Decreases leg cramps. 
  • Reduces constipation. 
  • Helps you to feel more energetic. 
  • Improves your overall mood.

What do I need to consider while pregnant?

  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise. 
  • Wear layers of clothes and take them off as you get warmer (avoid overheating). 
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Wear a good support bra. 
  • Try to do some type of activity at least three to five times per week. 
  • Do kegel exercises every day.

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have joined forces to create a set of professional recommendations for exercise during pregnancy. These were designed to aid the expecting mother and their physician to discuss physical activity as an essential part of pregnancy.

A summary of the recommendations are as follows:

  1. All women without contraindications should be encouraged to participate in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises as part of a healthy lifestyle during their pregnancy. A good list of common contraindications can be found in this article by Dr. Maureen Kennedy
  2. Reasonable goals of aerobic conditioning in pregnancy should be to maintain a good fitness level throughout pregnancy without trying to reach peak fitness or train for an athletic competition.
  3. Women should choose activities that will minimize the risk of loss of balance and fetal trauma (e.g. don't choose skateboarding as a new sport). 
  4. Women should be advised that adverse pregnancy or neonatal outcomes are not increased for exercising women. 
  5. Initiation of pelvic floor exercises in the immediate postpartum period may reduce the risk of future urinary incontinence. 
  6. Women should be advised that moderate exercise during lactation does not affect the quantity or composition of breast milk or impact infant growth.

This overview lets you know the importance of being physically active and new recommendations to discuss with your doctor if you’re pregnant . In the references & resources section I have linked to a great article by Dr. Maureen Kennedy, that goes into a bit more depth on choosing activities, their durations, and other precautions a pregnant woman should keep in mind when being active.

I hope that this is useful information to you and that you’re more inclined to take your daily dose of the best medicine out there (i.e. physical activity), especially if you're expecting.

Experienced active mothers, I encourage you all to join the conversation by sharing your tips and favorite activities with others.

Have fun, be safe, & KEEP MOVING!


 References & Resources:

BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre

Joint SOGC/CSEP clinical practice guideline: Exercise in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

Dr. Maureen Kennedy discusses prenatal exercise

Topic: 
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