Exercise while pregnant has always been a controversial issue. The days of of “eating for two” to justify inappropriate eating habits is passé. Nine years ago, The American Congress of Obstetrician-Gynecologists published guidelines regarding exercise and pregnancy. Essentially they recommended 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise each day for pregnant women in the absence of medical or obstetrical complications. The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendations for an “active lifestyle” does not exclude pregnancy.
In the June 2011 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Gerald Zavorsky, Ph.D and Lawrence D. Longo, MD, wrote an excellent article on exercise and pregnancy. They recommend exercise intensity that increases the heart rate to at least 60% of its maximum capacity during pregnancy to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. Other recommendations for pregnant women are as follows:
• Pregnant women aged 18 to 45 may do 8 to 10 muscular strength exercises for one to two sessions per week on nonconsecutive days. One aerobic training session can be replaced by a muscle strengthening session in the weight room or at home
• Use lighter weights and more repetitions. If you usually perform leg presses with 35 lb for 8 to 12 repetitions, try 20lb for 15 to 20 reps.
• Avoid walking lunges because they may rise the risk of injury to connective tissue in the pelvic area
• Be careful with free weights because they may involve the risk of hitting the abdomen. Use resistance bands instead that offer different amounts of resistance and varied ways o do weight training and should pose minimal risk to the abdomen
• Try not to lift while flat on your back. In the second and third trimesters, lying on your back may cause the uterus to compress a major vein that could limit oxygen received by the fetus
• Zavorsky and Longo recommend that you listen to your body. If you feel muscle strain or excessive fatigue, modify the moves and reduce the frequency of the workouts. “Pregnancy is not the time to perform heavy weight lifting.” Instead, they should do muscle strengthening exercises according to the prescribed guidelines because it will burn calories and increase the resting metabolic rate.”
As always, please consult your physician or healthcare provider prior to starting an exercise program and remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.