Basics of Training
Your most common exercise questions answered, plus a great prenatal workout
You probably already know that it’s better to stay active during pregnancy than to sit on the sidelines. Studies show that women who exercise while pregnant not only have smoother pregnancies than their sedentary counterparts, but they may also have easier labors and feel better about themselves after delivery. But if you’re like most expectant moms, you have specific questions about how much exercise is safe, how you should do it and at what intensities. Here is the nitty-gritty on the most common concerns about exercise during pregnancy.
Now that I’m pregnant, I want to start exercising. Do I need my doctor’s approval before I begin?
You’ll be seeing your doctor for prenatal visits anyway, so why not mention that you hope to begin an exercise regimen? Chances are you’ll get a green light and lots of encouragement.
Walking and low-impact prenatal aerobics are excellent choices for beginners. Just make sure that you start out at a low or moderate level; aim to work up to 20- to 30-minute sessions, three times a week.
Can pregnant women lift weights?
Absolutely — and pay special attention to your upper-body work, since you’re going to need extra strength to carry your baby once she is born. If you’re new to strength training, start slowly. “For women who have never weight-trained, I recommend beginning with light free weights,” advises James F. Clapp III, M.D., in Exercising Through Your Pregnancy (Human Kinetics, 1998). If you already strength-train, don’t increase weight loads, repetitions or sets until after 10 or 12 weeks. The main caveats: Avoid holding your breath while lifting, since that can impede blood flow to the fetus; and don’t lift weights while lying on your back.
I’m worried that my workouts might trigger a miscarriage. Is there any risk?
As long as you don’t overdo it, no. In fact, a recent study of more than 300 women by the Columbia University School of Public Health in New York found that women who engaged in aerobic exercise during their pregnancies were less likely to experience miscarriages early in pregnancy. “We don’t understand why or how exercise may be protective, but one theory is that it blunts [or lessens] hormonal changes that can trigger uterine contractions and miscarriage,” says Maureen Hatch, Ph.D., associate professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
I have to interrupt my exercising all the time to urinate. I sometimes leak a little, too. Should I reduce my water intake?