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Exercise During Pregnancy: What's Safe?

activity, exercise, pregnancy, safe, benefits, health, wellness

The biggest misconception women have about exercising while pregnant is that they can't do it at all, says Dr. Keren Lerner, OB-GYN at Cedars-Sinai

"It's not uncommon for women to wonder if working out during pregnancy will put the baby at risk," says Dr. Lerner. "I get asked that a lot."

"Exercise helps us feel good, helps give us energy—that extends into pregnancy as well."

Not only is it safe for pregnant women to exercise, but engaging in physical activity while pregnant can be beneficial for the health of a woman and her baby.

It can reduce the risk of preeclampsiagestational diabetes, and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy. It can also minimize discomfort.

The American Pregnancy Association recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day for women who have a normal, healthy pregnancy. 

The best types of workouts for pregnant women

It's important to know that not all pregnancy workouts are created equal. 

Dr. Lerner says workouts like Barre and Pilates are great because they focus on core strength, which can make the delivery and recovery process easier. 

"Prenatal yoga classes can be great for mind, body, soul, and core," Dr. Lerner says, as long as women are careful not to overextend their backs with deep bends or twists.

She also recommends swimming, especially in the third trimester.

"When there's more weight being carried, a lot of women end up with back pain," Dr. Lerner says.

"Because gravity is less of an issue in the water, women tend to be more comfortable in the pool."

No matter what workout they choose, pregnant women should drink plenty of water and take a rest if they start to feel dizzy or lightheaded while exercising.

Workouts to avoid when pregnant

All pregnant women should avoid contact sports, as well as activities like skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, horseback riding, and scuba diving.

If the pregnancy is high risk, women should talk to their doctor about their workout options.

Women should also seek medical advice if they get injured while exercising.

While 30 minutes of daily activity during pregnancy is recommended, women who enjoy working out aren't limited to this, Dr. Lerner says.

"Certainly those who are used to working out or have active jobs or lifestyles can endure more," Dr. Lerner says.

"They just need to be sure they're listening to their bodies." 

After pregnancy

After women have a baby, no one expects them to starting working out right away. If the delivery is by cesarean section, doctors strongly advise women to refrain from exercising for the first 6 weeks after having a baby.

Dr. Lerner says that for a lot of women, breastfeeding can help burn off calories and lose the weight gained during pregnancy, but this isn't the case for all women.

"Women who exercise and eat healthy during pregnancy tend to get back in shape and feel better afterward," Dr. Lerner says. "Exercise helps us feel good, helps give us energy—that extends into pregnancy as well." 

Ideally, the best way for women to stay healthy during and after pregnancy is to begin before they conceive, says Dr. Lerner.

"I recommend that women continue exercising throughout their pregnancy until they feel like they can't."