Exercising while pregnant: What’s safe and what should you avoid? – SFGate

At times, pregnancy feels like nine months of question-asking and worrying. Which foods should I avoid? Is it safe to travel abroad? Is my baby growing at a normal pace? Which sleeping position is best? Is the SNOO worth the hype (and price tag)? And my personal kicker: How should I be exercising right now?

Having run professionally for the last seven years, logging up to 120 miles per week, I knew when I became pregnant that my training would have to change but how I had no idea. So as soon as I saw that first positive test, I channeled my questions into online searches and conversations with experts. In addition to bookmarking a few credible sources on the matter, I had an early and open discussion with my OBGYN. Her advice was refreshingly simple: dont push myself too hard, especially in the heat, but feel free to keep doing what Ive been doing as long it feels good and my monthly check-ins indicate that everythings on track. I took that to heart, and have comfortably been running 50-60 miles per week with much less intensity than before, but a new purpose to my miles.

I also had the chance to interview Dr. Karen M. Duncan, an assistant professor and residency program director at the New York University School of Medicines Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology who shares my passion for running. Based on our conversation and the latest recommendations from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), here are some general guidelines for exercising while pregnant.

The first step is to determine whether youre in the majority of women for whom exercise during pregnancy is safe. Gone are the days of treating pregnant women like delicate flowers, as Duncan puts it. We now know that staying active during those nine months and after is beneficial for both mom and baby.

However, there are a handful of circumstances in which women should avoid exercise, or at least talk to their doctor before going for it. According to the ACOG, these conditions include:

If youre good to go, you can aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week.

Assuming youve gotten the green light from your doctor, 150 minutes a week seems to be the magic (minimum) number. Both ACOG and HHS recommend a total of two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week which HHS describes as an effort level of 5-6 on a 0 to 10 scale ideally spread throughout the 7-day week. It doesnt matter whether you divide it into five 30-minute bouts, or break it down into several smaller sessions and one longer session. The important thing is that you get your heart rate up, sweat a bit, and put your muscles to use on a regular basis.

If you arent very active when you become pregnant, a cautious foray into exercise is best. ACOG suggests a slow start and a gradual increase, adding five minutes of activity per week until youre comfortable at that 30-minute per day threshold.

But, if you're like me and youre used to a heavy training load prior to pregnancy, the general consensus is that continuing your routine is fine, as long as your obstetrician approves and your weight inches appropriately up.

Staying active while pregnant can do wonders for your body and your mind. Duncan explains (and ACOG confirms) that exercise is a healthy way to stay physically fit, prepare your body for labor, maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your cardiovascular system, decrease back pain, ease constipation, and possibly decrease certain risks such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. She adds that exercise can also improve your mood no small thing, given the prevalence of peripartum and postpartum depression.

Many women are worried that exercising throughout pregnancy may increase their chances of negative outcomes. HHS puts those concerns to rest, reporting that physical activity does not increase the risk of low birth weight, preterm delivery, or early pregnancy loss.

While movement, in general, is a good thing, there are some exercises that are safer than others while you also have a baby on board. ACOG recommends no or low-impact activities like:

In general, Duncan encourages pregnant women to run everything by an OBGYN (pun not intended).

On the other side of the coin, youll want to steer clear of any activity that has a chance of putting you or your baby in harms way. ACOGs list of exercises to avoid includes:

On top of those, HHS recommends that pregnant women who are past the first trimester avoid exercises that involve lying on their back, as it can impede blood flow to the uterus and fetus.

If giving up any of the activities above sounds like a big sacrifice, remember that its not forever and you can try to find a safer alternative in the meantime.

Our bodies let us know when were overdoing things; the key is to pay attention to the signals and know what to watch out for. We all get a little bit winded and sweaty, which is okay, Duncan says, but if youre winded or sweaty before you start, be cautious. Other warning signs she says to look out for include:

To that list, ACOG adds to watch out for:

And as always, if anything feels wrong or you're unsure of what to do, consult your doctor to determine what is best for your body and your baby.

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Exercising while pregnant: What's safe and what should you avoid? - SFGate

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