We’ve finally moved past the days where women were explicitly told NOT to exercise during pregnancy, but there are still are sooo many misconceptions that haunt this topic.
When you consult the resources we guarantee you’ll come across a lot of conflicting information from healthcare professionals, online forums and websites, and well-intending family and friends. And that can make things incredibly confusing. What’s more, it’s exhausting to sift through all that info and find out what’s actually true.
That’s where Baby2Body comes in; to help you know what’s myth from fact when it comes to pregnancy exercise and to build workouts that you can trust to be safe for your stage.
So, why is there still judgment around prenatal exercise?
For some reason, plenty of people still view women as extra “fragile” during pregnancy, and to them, exercise appears to be “too intense” of an activity. But… hello, you’re carrying another human inside of you, and isn’t that like superhuman strength? We think so.
Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you need to be encased in bubble wrap — and while it may be easier for someone to tell you to avoid exercise altogether, we’d never get anywhere if we only did things that were easy. (Ahem… like #motherhood… which is freaking hard.)
Here’s the ultimate fact: pregnancy exercise is safe when done properly. Before we dive into the rest we want to go over one important thing that contributes to this:
Your womb is really good at protecting your baby.
The truth is, your baby is really well cushioned in your uterus. The amniotic fluid that surrounds baby acts like a shock absorber, so when you’re moving around, your baby is quite content within their cushioned little bubble.
Let’s take a quick break to talk about exceptions. For some high-risk pregnancies or other complicating conditions (i.e. pre-eclampsia, cervical insufficiency, or placenta previa) where your doctor has specifically advised you to not engage in rigorous exercise or even be on bed rest, it’s important to take their guidance very seriously. It may not mean you can’t stay active, but your exercise routine could look a bit different – and that’s perfectly okay. Safety and the health of you and your baby are the name of the game. Most pregnancies are not considered high risk, and exercise is highly recommended as beneficial to the health of mother and baby for ‘normal’, low-risk pregnancies.
Alright let’s get into a few more pregnancy fitness facts that you can use to clear up any lingering misconceptions on the topic:
5 Facts Of Pregnancy Exercise
1. Exercise will make you feel better during pregnancy
Getting your body moving will get your blood pumping, and that has some major benefits for your body and mind. That increased blood flow carries oxygen to all parts of your body – including your brain. What increased oxygenation does is help wake you up (take that 1st-trimester fatigue), help improve digestion (constipation is a common pregnancy symptom), reduce water retention (your bump isn’t the only thing that swells), and even alleviate pain (your lower back will thank you).
Of course, there’s always a balance and you won’t be feeling great if you work yourself to complete exhaustion. But there’s no need to push it that hard, and you shouldn’t exercise yourself to fatigue while pregnant (your body’s already doing enough work growing a baby!). Exercise is about rewarding your body and keeping it strong – not punishing it by pushing it past its limits, and that goes for if you’re pregnant or not.
2. You don’t have to give up the workouts you love once pregnant — even if that’s distance running or HIIT
Years ago, healthcare professionals used to advise that you shouldn’t let your heart rate get over 140 beats per minute during pregnancy. This recommendation has been disproven and today doctors will tell you it’s just not true. There is no longer a heart rate limit imposed on women during pregnancy as long as they were active before becoming pregnant and do not have a ‘high-risk’ pregnancy.
The level you’ll run or workout at really depends on where your fitness level was before you got pregnant. There’s a reason why Serena Williams and Alysia Montano were able to compete at high levels while pregnant, but the same concept goes for you! For most people, we wouldn’t recommend an 800m sprint event at 34 weeks… but in general, you can keep doing the types of workouts you were before pregnancy.
The reason is that your body is used to those movements and conditioned for that training, so you already know how you should feel. That’s why it’s important to listen to your body and stay within your limit, making adjustments over time as necessary. (p.s. Baby2Body will help with that)!
For some running with a bump inspiration, check out this amazing story from our Shape Your Pregnancy campaign.
3. Prenatal exercise will help you regulate your weight gain the healthy way
There’s a common misconception that during pregnancy, you’re eating for two, but that’s not really the case. It’s more about getting nutrition for two, not calories for two. Your caloric needs during pregnancy aren’t that much higher than when you’re not pregnant. It’s more about getting enough energy and a variety of essential nutrients to keep you feeling good while growing a healthy baby.
Exercising regularly can help you stay motivated to eat well, and studies have shown that working out consistently during pregnancy limits excess weight gain. Of course, you’ll gain weight naturally from your baby’s growth, and your body will go into a natural fat-storing process to make sure you have enough energy stores to support your pregnancy. Making exercise part of your pregnancy plan will help you avoid overshooting your healthy pregnancy weight–and as a result, you’ll avoid adverse health risks, and you’ll have an easier time losing the baby weight after birth.
4. Prenatal exercise will help carry nutrients to your baby
Your body and baby’s body are pretty amazing and in constant equilibrium with each other. As referenced above, it’s so important to eat a nutrient-rich diet (lots of fruits, veggies, and healthy protein!), as your body will deliver the nutrients baby needs to grow while making sure you have a healthy supply yourself.
Our body is pretty great at keeping us in sync with baby’s — and because exercise increases blood circulation, it more efficiently carries those nutrients to baby through your bloodstream. Pretty cool, huh?
5. You can work your core during pregnancy, and it will help in the long run
We’re not talking about powering through crunches in your second and third trimesters, in fact we highly advise against that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work your core muscles. Don’t forget that your glutes, back, and pelvic floor are all important parts of your core muscles! So kegels, squats, and lunges will all help your core strength.
There are definitely abdominal exercises that are best avoided as you progress through pregnancy because your abdominal muscles are being stretched so much that they don’t have the same tensile strength as your non-pregnant abdomen. However, exercises like the bird dog, seated stomach pulls, and glute bridges are great ways to work deeper muscles in your abdomen and obliques to keep them strong without putting too much strain on them as well.
Things to consider: What you do have to be aware of is that baby’s rapid growth can cause a separation of the abdominal wall late in pregnancy, something called diastasis recti. This does not affect all women, but you do have to be aware of how to prevent this from happening and how to safely exercise if you have diastasis recti, as there are precautions you need to take. The Baby2Body app has guided exercises and information to help you through this of course.
For all of our top busted pregnancy myths, check out this post. And to spread the word that active pregnancies are healthier pregnancies, keep using the #shapeyourpregnancy hashtag on your pregnancy exercise posts on the gram!
Want more fitness tips and exercises for a healthy pregnancy and fourth trimester ? Check out our free ios app!