The ABCs of Pre/Postnatal Exercise

As a personal trainer with a specialty certification in pre-/postnatal fitness, I’m often asked about basic guidelines for exercise during the childbearing year.  Incorporating information from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and my certifying body The Cooper Institute, here’s a handy reference list:

  • Aerobic exercise benefits everyone—including your growing baby—so long as you are having a healthy pregnancy.
  • Keeping your balance and maintaining good form are key to pre/postnatal exercise.
  • Be consistent with regular exercise—3 to 5 times per week—during pregnancy.
  • Drink extra fluids.  Water is best.
  • Don’t exercise to exhaustion, and avoid becoming overheated.
  • Stop when fatigued; get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Resume previous exercise level gradually following delivery.
  • Hold off on beginning a completely new type of exercise program during pregnancy and in the first three months postpartum.
  • Reduce the level of intensity and duration of exercise as the pregnancy progresses, as indicated by your body’s cues.
  • Become familiar with normal changes in the body—such as joint laxity, swelling in the lower extremities, spinal alignment, and weight distribution.
  • Kegel, kegel, kegel!
  • Know your limits—when exercising and when stretching—and listen to your body!
  • Modify exercises to fit your level of development as the pregnancy progresses.  Individualize your exercise program to your fitness and energy levels.
  • Proper nutrition is healthy for you and baby.  Be aware of the need for approximately 300 extra calories/day when pregnant and 500 extra calories/day while breastfeeding.
  • Be aware of decreased oxygen available for aerobic exercise during pregnancy.
  • Pelvic tilts can help relieve the lower back stress felt as the uterus grows and your center of gravity changes.
  • Look for qualified, knowledgeable instructors and classes that are scientifically based.
  • Participate in breathing and relaxation exercises.
  • Supine (on the back) exercises should be avoided in the second & third trimesters.
  • Avoid all types of exercises that have increased risk of trauma to the abdominal area, such as basketball, skiing, or horseback riding.
  • Be aware of unusual changes in your body such as severe nausea, vomiting, swelling, or inadequate weight gain.
  • Visit your prenatal care provider regularly throughout your pregnancy.  Keep her/him apprised of your exercise program.
  • Warm-Up and Cool-Down periods of 10-15 minutes each help your body safely transition to/from exercise.
  • Regular eXercise can energize you while pregnant and give you positive eXpectations of life with baby.
  • Pre/postnatal yoga is great for muscle tone as well as breathing and relaxation exercises.
  • Now is not the time to be a zealot.  Good sense and moderation are important for fit mamas!

If you’re looking for group exercise classes just for perinatal women, come join me on Monday nights!


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