Ben Greenfield is an ex-bodybuilder, Ironman triathlete, Spartan racer, coach, speaker and author.In 2008, Ben was voted as NSCA’s Personal Trainer of the year and in 2013 was named by Greatist as one of the top 100 Most Influential People In Health And Fitness. He’s a guest blogger for Get Smart Get Covered but you can find Ben’s blogs and podcasts at www.BenGreenfieldFitness.com. He resides in Spokane, WA with his wife and twin boys.
While bringing a new bundle of joy into the world is one of the most special moments of a lifetime, no mom-to-be likes the prospect fighting off postpartum weight gain for years afterwards.
Did you know…
If you stay fit while you’re pregnant, shedding the baby weight becomes a breeze. And the benefits go above and beyond that, including:
- Lower risk of developing gestational diabetes
- Reduced postpartum depression
- Less water retention
- Larger placenta and better nutrient delivery to your baby
- Decreased formation of varicose veins
- Less risk for a C-section
- Leaner children up to 5 years after delivery
So how can you stay fit while you’re pregnant?
While there are certainly “standard” recommendations (included below) that you may get from your physician, I’ve found through talking to fitness experts on my podcasts and helping my own wife during her pregnancy that you can modify these standard recommendations to give yourself even more of a pregnancy fitness advantage.
There are certain exercises and activities that can be harmful if performed during pregnancy. The standard recommendations are to avoid:
- Holding your breath during any activity
- Activities where falling is likely (such as skiing and horseback riding)
- Contact sports such as softball, football, basketball and volleyball
- Any exercise that may cause even mild abdominal trauma, including activities that include jarring motions or rapid changes in direction
- Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing or running
- Deep knee bends, full sit-ups, double leg raises and straight-leg toe touches
- Bouncing while stretching
- Exercises that require lying on your back or right side for more than three minutes. (especially after your third month of pregnancy)
- Waist twisting movements while standing
- Heavy exercise spurts followed by long periods of no activity
- Exercise in hot, humid weather
As always, consult your doctor before engaging in any physical activity while pregnant.
So now that you know what to avoid, what should you include? Here are three good pregnancy exercise strategies:
1. Include cardiovascular exercise.
Swimming, riding a stationary bike, easy, light jogging, cross-country skiing, and aerobic step-up classes are good cardiovascular exercise strategies. If you’re just starting out, make sure you start early (at 8 to 10 weeks), beginning with around five exercise sessions a week for 20-30 minutes at a moderate intensity.
Want to go longer? Increase time and intensity every week gradually, and stay within 50 to 75 percent of their maximum heart rate while exercising. That’s a heart rate per minute of 220 beats minus your age (an exercise heart rate monitor makes it easy to keep track of this)
2. Include weight training.
Overhead presses, pull-ups, pull-downs, squats, lunges and side-to-side lunges are great exercises to maintain strength during pregnancy. You can go through partial range of motion as you approach your third trimester, but should include all these movements so that every joint in your body stays strong and supple.
Your hip flexors on the front of your legs will get very tight during pregnancy, especially as your baby grows. Include as many hip flexor “openers” and low back stretching exercises as possible.
Want more tips? Check out my article about “How To Lose Weight After Pregnancy.”