If your first trimester is filled with fatigue and nausea, probably the last thing you want to do is exercise — but don’t let your gym membership go to waste! There are plenty of things that you can do to maintain your fitness and benefit yourself and your baby during the next few months.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate — or 75 minutes of vigorous — exercise per week, and this goal does not change with pregnancy. Thirty minutes of exercise five days a week is a reasonable way to divide the recommended activity.
Many women can continue to do their pre-pregnancy workouts. First and foremost, check with your healthcare provider to ensure that you don’t have any medical issues that would affect your ability to exercise. After you get the go-ahead, the staff at your fitness center can be a great resource. Many gyms offer personal training consultations — and often for free. A trainer can help tailor your routine to your goals and to your gestational age.
The best exercise sessions incorporate cardiovascular fitness and strength training of major muscle groups. To get your heart pumping, equipment like treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes and stair climbers can be very useful. Most of these machines have different levels of resistance, which help to vary the type of activity you do and even which muscles the activities utilize.
Some gym memberships include use of a swimming pool. Swimming is a great pregnancy activity, especially if back pain or other musculoskeletal discomfort becomes an issue. Without bearing weight on your sore hips and back, you can raise your heart rate and achieve a total body workout.
If your fitness center offers group classes, consider checking out the descriptions to see if any spark your interest. Yoga and pilates are excellent ways to improve flexibility and may only require a little bit of modification to ensure safety in pregnancy. Higher energy classes like zumba and aerobics may get the heart pumping — just be sure you are steading on your feet to decrease the risk of falling during the fancy footwork.
Finally, strength training with free weights, weight machines or other resistance (such as bands or tubes) is a good way to round out your exercise sessions and prepare your body for carrying around a baby who will eventually turn into a 30-pound toddler. When you are exercising, keep the following simple safety rules in mind:
1. Let your body be your guide. If something doesn’t feel right, stop and ask how you can modify the activity.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
3. Dress appropriately for the temperature and intensity of the activity — layers are great for this.
4. If you would be unable to carry on a conversation while you are exercising, slow down or stop. Your oxygenation status affects your baby.
So put down the remote, lace up your sneakers and hit the gym! Regular exercise has been proven to improve pregnancy outcomes, and your attention to your own health will help reinforce the importance of an active lifestyle to your children.
Lynsey Caldwell Owen, MD, FACOG, is an obstetrician/gynecologist at Arlington Women’s Center and Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA.