I looked forward to my second trimester and leaving the first trimester’s fog of exhaustion behind. Walking to the refrigerator for a pint of ice cream or to the nearest horizontal surface for a quick snooze could be consider pregnancy exercise, but I was hoping to re-capture some of my pre-pregnancy exercise endorphins.
Pregnancy, especially when you start showing, is a good excuse to stay on the sofa, wait for your husband to “voluntarily” offer to get you some ice cream. I love using the baby as an excuse for my husband to “baby” me. Morally wrong? Maybe. Am I milking it? Oh yea.
But exercise has been a big component in my life for the last several years and even the limitations of pregnancy cannot keep me away from it for long. However, I discovered that you cannot expect to pick up right where you left off prior to getting pregnant. As a matter of fact, exercise during pregnancy has its own unique set of challenges, especially since I am still dealing with my torn hip labrum.
This post is a discussion on the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and what is considered safe pregnancy exercises. I am not a doctor or fitness trainer. This post is only my opinion and examples of what pregnancy exercises I am doing to stay healthy.
Can I exercise during pregnancy?
Absolutely. If you can walk, you can exercise during pregnancy. However, don’t expect to be able to continue at the same intensity or duration because your stamina will be compromised as your pregnancy progresses. I did not believe this myself until I hit the middle of my second trimester when my aching pelvis made me give up aerobics exercise dvds entirely (of course, part of my problem came from my injured hip).
The goal of exercise during pregnancy is to maintain your current fitness level. If you have always lifted weights or done aerobics, you can certainly continue to do these physical activities during your pregnancy with some modifications. And most of us are able to walk prior to becoming pregnancy. Do you see any reason why it would suddenly become impossible for you to walk a mile or two after the pee stick dried?
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
The benefits of pregnancy exercise include:
- shorter labor
- more stable blood sugar hence reducing your chance of gestational diabetes
- lower risk of preeclampsia
- reduced chance of C-section
The number one benefit of pregnancy exercise is the benefit to your baby. Women who gained excessive weight during pregnancy more than double their baby’s risk of being obese children.
In addition, staying active keeps me positive about nmy increasing weight ad waistline. I know that my pregnancy weight gain and expanding waistline is a sign that my baby is healthy, but there is a part of me that resist losing my figure even if it is only temporary. And pregnancy exercise gives me a small sense of control over my body so that I do not feel like I have to restrict my eating.
Cardio exercise for pregnant women
Walking and swimming are the safest cardio exercise for pregnant women. These two activities are low impact and have low risk for injuries. Even a previously sedentary individual can easily pick up walking. But make sure you have the proper swimming equipment if you plan to swim during pregnancy. Low impact exercise starts to become more important as your pregnancy progresses because of the increase in your weight and the instability in your joints.
Relaxin is a hormone that peaks around 14-16 weeks and softens the joints in your body to get it ready to open the pelvis area for the birth of the baby. However, relaxin does not discriminate against other joints in your body. So even though you might not feel it, all the joints in your body becomes looser and less stable as your pregnancy progresses. Any muscle imbalance you might have previous will be exaggerated by the relaxation of your joints. And in the case of my torn hip labrum, I actually feel this stability much earlier with aching hip muscles and an aching pelvis area well before I even gained my first 10 pounds. When you are pregnant, you produce more relaxin hormones than normally presented in your body.
So high impact cardio or cardio that requires quick sudden movements are not recommended exercises for pregnant women. Low impact cardio can be quite boring for those of us used to jumping, quick foot movements, or step aerobics, but think of it this way — you only need to do it for a few months. It is better to be safe and be able to continue to exercise during pregnancy than to injury yourself and gain excess weight during pregnancy.
Weight lifting exercise for pregnant women
When it comes to weight lifting exercise for pregnant women, you might want to consider lifting more repetitions with lighter weights. Once again, you have relaxin to thank for this exercise modification during pregnancy. There is a chance of an injury when you have looser joints while lifting heavy weights. Or if you have access to a gym, pregnancy is a great time to start using the weight machines.
Normally I am not a big fan of weight machines unless you are a beginner when it comes to weight lifting. Weight machines isolate your work to a particular muscle group that the machine is specifically designed for, hence reducing your risk of injury. Weight machines allows you to lift heavier weights for a particular muscle group even if your smaller stabilizer muscle groups are weaker. This also means you can have sloppier form.
While free weights, on the other hand, incorporates a lot of smaller muscles to help stabilize the movement making your muscles look more balance. So if you want to continue heavy weight exercise during pregnancy, using a weight machine would help you accomplish this goal while reducing your chances of injury. However, you risk over training your big muscles groups while neglecting your smaller stabilizing muscles.
How have I been exercising during pregnancy?
Prior to pregnancy, I walked 2 miles daily and workout with exercise dvds 4-5 times a week for 30-45 minutes. I was able to continue this exercise routine up until my 8th weeks. Then, pregnancy exhaustion reduce my exercise dvd sessions to 3 times a week for about 20-30 minutes because I was spending so much of my evening napping when I get home from work.
From week 10 through 16, I was still using my existing exercise dvds. I started using lighter weights and made my movements smaller when doing aerobics due to the reduction in my stamina. I stopped doing ab exercises on the floor after 12 weeks and started using an exercise ball instead (the incline helps with the discomfort of my budding pregnancy belly).
During this time I continued my daily 2 mile walks. I started slowing down visibly around 18 weeks. I was getting too winded while I tried talking to my friends. I feel a little guilty that my friends had to slow down to accommodate me, but there was no way I can keep up without flaring up my pelvis area when I get back to my chair.
I gave up on aerobics completely after 19 weeks. It took me this long to figure out that the pain I feel in my pelvis and hip area all stem from the aerobic exercise I was doing (and it was a pregnancy aerobic workout video too). I have to ice the area immediate afterwards and for the next evening as well. Remember what I said about the instability cause by the relaxin hormone? Well, throw in prior muscle imbalance from my torn hip labrum, and you have a recipe for pain.
I replaced aerobics with pilates and yoga which helped with some of the discomfort of pregnancy when your posture keeps changing to accommodate the growing belly. I never saw the need to purchase pregnancy workout videos before, thinking I would be able use something milder in my existing exercise dvd collection. Now that I am 10 pounds heavier with a belly that protrudes an additional 6 inches forward, regular exercise dvds do not cut it. They do not show pregnancy exercise modifications that can accommodate my larger belly.
I never thought that a 2 hour shopping trip where you are strolling leisurely would wipe me out so completely that I need to take a nap immediately after getting home. I can see the writing on the wall regarding exercising as my pregnancy progresses into the third trimester. I thought I would be one of those women who would continue to exercise rigorously like I am not even pregnant. Maybe it is because I am almost 32 years old. Or maybe it is because of my previous injuries. But I can see myself giving up weight lifting entirely and focus mostly on pilates and yoga with a little bit of walking thrown in. And that is just good enough for me at this point. After all, there is only a few months left until spring.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.
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