The truth about exercising during pregnancy: 10 myths uncovered
by Matt Hodges
06 July 2015
TRUTH: You can safely begin an exercise program at any time. Exercise should always be built gradually though. Introducing a new, high-intensity activity is to be avoided, but building up exercise moderately and consistently during pregnancy is recommended.
Myth 2: Pregnant women should work out a maximum three times per week.
TRUTH: 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day is highly recommended by The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Always consult your doctor prior to starting this though, as everyone is entirely different, and those experiencing complications during their pregnancy may well be advised otherwise.
Myth 3: During pregnancy, your heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute.
TRUTH: This is not the best guide for measuring how much you are exerting yourself during exercise. This rule differs from person to person. If you are very fit, reaching 140 beats per minute will be regular and completely normal, but for someone who is unaccustomed to regular exercise, this may be too high. Instead, use a simple talk test to assess intensity or use the Borg Scale, which measures perceived exertion.
Myth 4: A pregnant woman who is following a regular exercise schedule should be eating for two.
TRUTH: It is important to increase the intake of certain nutrients to help nourish your baby, but you must keep in mind that you should not be eating for two. Overeating during pregnancy can lead to back pain, high blood pressure and excessive weight gain. Your baby may also grow very large, leading to further complications.
Myth 5: You should not do abdominal exercises during pregnancy.
TRUTH: It is very important during pregnancy to engage exercises that work the abdominals. At this time, they are stretched out, so you will need to alter the way you’re exercising them. The abs are not as efficient during pregnancy, so scrap traditional crunches which won’t be very effective. Also, you shouldn’t be on your back for more than a couple of minutes following the first trimester, so focus instead on core exercises that you can do standing, sitting or on all fours.
Myth 6: You can forget bothering with Kegels (pelvic floor exercises) if you are going to have a Caesarean.
TRUTH: Kegels are still important, regardless of what type of birth you are planning on having. The fact is, most of the damage to the pelvic floor is caused during pregnancy, not during the delivery of the baby.
Myth 7: Exercising while pregnant can harm your baby.
TRUTH: Exercising during pregnancy will not be harmful to your baby. In fact, studies show that exercise actually has a very positive effect on your baby’s health, including promoting a healthier heart and a lowered risk of high blood pressure – even as adults. Exercising during pregnancy also lowers your baby’s risk of diabetes.
Myth 8: Exercising while pregnant can lead to premature birth and miscarriage.
TRUTH: Exercising during pregnancy will not make you miscarry or go into premature labour. A meta-analysis did a rigorous review of healthy women with normal pregnancies. Looking at dozens of studies, it found absolutely no link between exercise and increased rates of miscarriage or premature birth. One study actually found that regular walking decreased a woman’s likelihood of going into preterm labour while sedentary activities, such as watching TV, actually increased the risk.
Myth 9: Exercising during pregnancy can lead to harder labour and delivery of your baby.
TRUTH: Studies have shown that, in fact, women who exercise during pregnancy report having shorter, less painful, and less complicated deliveries than those who don’t exercise. Another study has shown that babies who were born to mothers who worked out during their pregnancies were more likely to be born at a healthy weight. These babies also handled the stress of their delivery better. Experts believe that this is because the mother’s exercise during pregnancy strengthens the baby’s heart, making it more resilient to physical stress.
Myth 10: Exercising during pregnancy makes recovery harder.
TRUTH: Exercising during pregnancy more often makes the recovery after giving birth easier. Women who work out gain about seven pounds less during their pregnancies, but their babies’ weights are still very healthy. Furthermore, one study shows that babies born to exercising mothers are less likely to be under or overweight. Women who work out during pregnancy also find the recovery from the physical strain of labour to be much quicker.