Exercise During Pregnancy and Post Partum
- Regular exercise (at least three times per week) is preferable to intermittent
activity. Competitive activities are discouraged. Lap swimming is encouraged.
- Vigorous exercise should not be performed in hot, humid weather or when
you have a temperature. Do not allow yourself to become overheated.
- Ballistic movements (jerky, bouncy motions) should be avoided. Exercise
should be done on a wooden floor or tightly carpeted surface to reduce
shock and provide a sure footing.
- Deep flexion or extension of joints should be avoided because of connective
tissue laxity. Activities that require jumping, jarring motions or rapid
changes in direction should be avoided because of joint instability.
- Vigorous exercise should be preceded by a 5-minute period of muscle warm-up.
This can be accomplished by slow walking or stationary cycling with low
resistance. Strenuous exercise should be avoided. Do not exercise to the
point of feeling light headed and profuse sweating.
- Vigorous exercise should be followed by a period of gradually declining
activity that includes gently stationary stretching. Because connective
tissue laxity increases the risk of joint injury, stretching should not
be taken to the point of maximum resistance. Some form of activity involving
the legs such as walking should be continued for a brief period of “cool
down” following exercise.
- Care should be taken to gradually rise from the floor to prevent a drop
in blood pressure.
- Heart rate should be measured at peak activity. Maternal heart rate should
not exceed 140 beats per minute. You should be able to carry on a conversation
while exercising. Do not exercise to the point of exhaustion.
- Fluids should be taken liberally before, during, and after exercise to
prevent dehydration. If necessary, activity should be interrupted to replenish fluids.
- Women who have led sedentary lifestyles should begin physical activity
at low intensity and advance their activity levels very gradually.
- No exercise should be performed in the supine position (lying flat on your
back) after the fourth month of gestation is completed.
- Exercise that involves the Valsava maneuver (holding the breath and bearing
down) should be avoided.
- Maternal core temperature should not exceed 100.4°F. Dress in layers.
The safest and most comfortable exercises for expectant mothers are:
- Walking: it is easy and everyone can do it, even if you didn’t exercise
- Low impact aerobic classes or pregnancy exercise videotapes done at home.
- Swimming: it uses many different muscle groups and puts less gravitational
strain on the joints.
Remember, the key to exercising during pregnancy is moderation. Don’t
go for the burn and don’t exercise to exhaustion. A good rule of
thumb is to slow down if you can’t comfortably carry on a conversation
Unless you have a medical condition which restricts exercise, mild to moderate
exercise is very safe during pregnancy. It’s good for you as long
as you don’t overdo it and heed your body’s warning signs such as:
- Intense pain anywhere, but especially your back or pelvic region
- Excessive fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling faint
- Vaginal bleeding
- Difficulty walking
- Marked decrease in movement of the baby
If you develop any of the above symptoms during or after exercising, stop
immediately and call your doctor.