The truth about physical activity during pregnancy

Expectant parent walking on treadmill

Recently I saw a post from a new mom on a popular social media site:

“Ladies, if anyone tells you not to exercise while you’re pregnant, tell them they’re wrong,” she wrote.  “Two months after giving birth and I’m almost able to fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans.  Cardio and light weights are given two thumbs up by me.”

Her comments caught my attention as a Public Health Nurse.  Does everyone know the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?

An active lifestyle will benefit you and your unborn baby:

Toronto Public Health promotes physical activity during pregnancy as part of your healthy lifestyle, provided your doctor has given you the go-ahead to include exercise in your daily routine.

Before beginning any exercise program, make sure you get the OK from your health care provider.

Healthy eating and staying active before, during, and after pregnancy may help to reduce health risks for both yourself and your baby.  Even if exercise during pregnancy is generally good for both you and baby, your health care provider may advise you to modify or stop exercise if you have:

  • History of high or low blood pressure
  • Pain during exercising
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Painful uterine contractions
  • Sudden swelling of hands or feet

Exercising takes a little more effort when you are pregnant.  Be sure to listen to your body and stop or slow your exercise down when needed.

What are some good activities for you during pregnancy?

  • Walking
  • Stationary cycling
  • Swimming
  • Yoga

These cause less stress on the body and don’t require jumping or a risk of falling.  Dancing is a great activity (which can be done anytime, anywhere – no classes to join) and increases mood as well as physical health.  If you’d like to try strength training, avoid lifting heavy weights.  Increase the repetitions with low weights instead.

When should I start?

There is never a better time than now.  The risk of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activities are low for healthy pregnant women.  If you’ve already been exercising several times a week, you can continue your routine, but if you want to start after you’ve become pregnant, it’s best to wait until after the 16th week (around 4 months).  Being active every day is important. Getting exercise three times a week for at least 30 minutes is considered regular physical activity.

It’s important to be aware of the benefits and safety tips during pregnancy.

Does an exercise plan during pregnancy really make a difference?

There is no guarantee that exercise will get you into your pre-pregnancy jeans sooner.  But it will help you feel better, prepare your body for childbirth, and reduce your recovery time once baby has arrived.

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