In 1994, ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) revised its recommendations for exercising safely during pregnancy. The following summary of its guidelines applies to low-risk pregnant women who have checked with their health care providers to make sure that they can continue their exercise programs.
You can continue to exercise and derive health benefits even from mild-to-moderate exercise routines. Regular exercise (at least three times a week) is preferable to more intermittent activity.
Be aware that you have less oxygen available for exercise. Stop exercising when you become fatigued, and do not exercise to exhaustion.
Be sure you eat an adequate diet that allows you to gain 25 to 35 pounds over the nine months. Most pregnant women require an additional 300 calories a day. If you exercise regularly, you will probably require more. (Include plenty of carbohydrates in your diet, as pregnant women use up this fuel source more quickly during exercise than nonpregnant women.)
What sports are best during pregnancy?
Most pregnant women can continue their pre-pregnancy exercise programs, though a woman may need to modify some of her activities or decrease the intensity of her workouts as pregnancy progresses. For example, a jogger who is quickly becoming fatigued or breathless may choose to switch to brisk walking; or a singles tennis player may switch to doubles.
The ACOG exercise guidelines urge pregnant women to listen to their own bodies and let their endurance and abilities guide them. A pregnant woman always should stop exercising when she begins to feel fatigued. And she should not feel discouraged if she cannot exercise as much as she might like, as even mild to moderate exercise should allow her to retain her level of fitness.
A pregnant woman always should stop exercising immediately if she experiences symptoms such as breathlessness, dizziness, headaches, muscle weakness, nausea, chest pain or tightness, uterine contractions or vaginal bleeding.
According to ACOG, women who perform nonweight-bearing activities, such as cycling or swimming, are more likely to be able to continue exercising at high intensity (if this is what a woman desires) through the third trimester than are women who perform weight-bearing exercises such as jogging or aerobic dancing. Nonweight-bearing activities also appear to decrease the risk of injury, though bicycle riders may want to switch to a stationary bicycle to avoid falls, as it may be more difficult to maintain balance as pregnancy proceeds.
If a pregnant woman is just starting an exercise program (with her health care provider's go-ahead), walking, swimming and cycling on a stationary bicycle are activities that are safe for almost all women.
Some exercises that all pregnant women should avoid include water-skiing, diving, snowmobiling and horseback riding. Downhill skiing also can be dangerous, especially in the third trimester when your balance may be affected, due to the risk of hard falls. If you do choose to ski, stay on safe slopes.
This information was provided in support from The March of Dimes
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Exercising While Pregnant