7 Smart Ways to Exercise Safely During Pregnancy

Working out is an important part of having a healthy pregnancy. Here, ob-gyn Elizabeth Pryor, MD, shares how to make sure you stay safe as you get active.

Get your doctor's approval

Pregnant woman with water bottle

Photodisc/ Getty

For most women with uncomplicated pregnanies, there's no reason why you can't lace up your sneakers and hit the gym (gently) throughout pregnancy. But in some cases -- like women at risk of preterm labor or who have other pregnancy conditions -- your doctor may advise against working out or may have you limit your activity. Be sure to get your ob-gyn's OK for your workout routine once you learn you're expecting.

Keep it regular

You're better off exercising frequently (at least three times per week) -- than just once in awhile. Think you don't have time to work out that often? Remember, it doesn't have to be in big chunks of time -- a 15-minute walk at lunch or after work counts too.

Take it easy

Your ticker is working overtime during pregnancy, pumping more blood through your body, and your lung capacity is decreased now too, which means you'll have a harder time catching your breath. That's why some doctors recommend you keep your target heart rate at 140 beats per minute or less. But an easier way to know if you're exerting yourself too much is simply make sure you can breathe normally. Some sweating and breathlessness is OK, but if you find yourself constantly winded or heart pounding, you should ease up a bit. Stop exercising when you feel fatigued and don't exercise to exhaustion.

Don't lie on your back

Avoid exercise that requires you to lie flat on your back -- like crunches -- after the first trimester. This can decrease blood flow to you and your baby.

Make sure you're eating enough

Most moms-to-be need around 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy, so make sure you're not burning too much off during your workouts.

Don't overheat

Take care to not become extremely overheated when exercising during the first trimester, which can be dangerous to your baby. Make sure you drink enough water and that your gym or workout environment is not too hot. You should also be sure to skip your post-workout cooldown in the sauna or steamroom, both of which are too hot to be safe for pregnant women.

Be prepared to modify your routine

You may not be able to keep up that five-mile run when you're six months' pregnant, and that's totally fine. Hormonal changes during pregnancy make you more flexible (and therefore, prone to injury) and your growing belly can throw off your center of balance, making your standby workouts more difficult. You may need to cut your workouts a bit short (take a 30-minute walk instead of an hour), or decrease your speed or resistance. If you take classes, always be sure to let the instructor know that you're pregnant so he can help you adjust the moves accordingly.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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