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Pregnant? Avoid these exercises.

By The Health News Team | March 7, 2023
Pregnant woman feeling pain while exercising

Would you run a marathon without training first? Probably not.

Childbirth, in whatever fashion your baby arrives, is like a marathon, says Kimberly Russell, a registered nurse with Sharp HealthCare. It is important to prepare as you would for any endurance event.

“You prepare for your baby by reading books, decorating a nursery, and buying clothes, diapers and bottles,” Russell says. “You need to equally manage your physical preparation. Taking time for exercise is — arguably — even more important.”

There is a long list of benefits to exercising during pregnancy, including:

  • Maintain and condition your muscles

  • Improve endurance and flexibility

  • Relieve common discomforts in pregnancy, such as gastrointestinal issues and back and joint pain

  • Strengthen the pelvic floor

  • Reduce risk of developing gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and blood clots

What’s more, along with the physical benefits of exercising in pregnancy, there are also emotional benefits, Russell says. Regular activity can release endorphins to improve your mood and help decrease the potential of developing postpartum depression.

“It also contributes to feeling strong and in control of your changing body,” she says. “This can lead to a more positive body image both during and after pregnancy.”

When to stop exercising and activities to avoid

It is important, however, to be cautious when exercising during your pregnancy. Russell recommends you stop exercising and consult with your doctor if you develop symptoms, including:

  • Heart palpitations

  • Musculoskeletal or joint pains

  • Faintness or dizziness

  • Blurry vision

  • Chest pain

  • Inability to catch your breath

  • Unrelieved headaches

  • Nausea

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Pelvic cramping or contractions

  • Muscle weakness

  • Calf pain or swelling

  • Contractions

  • Fluid leaking from the vagina

Russell also recommends avoiding exercises that require lying flat on your back, abdominal twisting, and quick changing positions or movements. And always avoid lying on your abdomen or baring down.

“Certain exercises cause a stretch and contraction of the abdominal muscles or an outward bulge of the abdomen,” Russell says. “Exercises, such as planks, crunches, backbends and heavy lifting can increase the possibility of developing diastasis recti, which is a separation of abdominal muscles. These should all be avoided during pregnancy.”

You should also avoid:

  • Scuba diving

  • Skydiving or other high-altitude activities

  • Contact sports that pose a risk of falling and trauma

  • Hot temperature activities, such as hot yoga or Pilates, and outside workouts on hot days and in direct sunlight

  • Heavy lifting

  • Maximum effort sprints

Practice caution as you build healthy habits

Low- to moderate-level activities, such as walking, swimming, water aerobics and stationary cardio machines are great options when pregnant, Russell says. And most workouts — including yoga, Pilates and strength training — can be modified for pregnancy safety.

However, be mindful that you can overstretch. And always talk with your doctor before starting an exercise routine, especially if your pregnancy has been deemed high-risk.

“Becoming or staying active during pregnancy can help keep you and your baby healthy,” Russell says. “It’s the perfect time to create long-term healthy habits for you and your growing family.”

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