It is not only safe for most expecting mothers to exercise during pregnancy, it is highly recommended, and in my clinical opinion, imperative. That is, unless you have been deemed a “high-risk” pregnancy by your doctor or gynecologist. In this instance, they will give recommendations of what you are able to do, and not do, and your conservative health provider can still work with you within these limitations.
Exercising While Pregnant Has A Lot Of Benefits
- Stress reduction and decreased severity of postpartum depressive symptoms
- Decreased excess weight gain
- Decreased incidence of diabetes
- Improved strength, range of motion, and posture
- Feelings of empowerment
- Reduced feelings of stiffness and discomfort due to pregnancy based changes
- Improved sleep
- Better recovery after pregnancy and better birth outcomes
- Decrease in urinary incontinence (bladder leaking)
Exercising Can Reduce Complications
Not only is exercise providing a wide array of benefits for MOM, it also allows for less potential complications, and less stress for BABY during labour. Inducing exercise during pregnancy means the fetus is already used to a bit of “stress;” allowing BABY to better handle the inevitable fetal stress during labour.
In 2019, Canada came out with new guidelines for pregnancy! It’s encouraging to have an updated set of guidelines for both practitioners and patients alike! Here are the recommendations:
- “All women without contraindication should be active throughout pregnancy.”
- “Pregnant women should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week to achieve clinically meaningful reductions in pregnancy complications.”
- “Physical activity should be accumulated over a minimum of 3 days per week; however, being active everyday is encouraged.”
- “Pregnant women should incorporate a variety of aerobic exercise and resistance training activities to achieve greater benefits. Adding yga and/or gentle stretching may also be beneficial.”
- “PFMT [pelvic floor muscle training] (eg, Kegel exercises) may be performed on a daily basis to reduce the odds of urinary incontinence. Instruction on the proper technique is recommended to obtain optimal benefits.”
- “Pregnant women who experience light-headedness, nausea or feel unwell when they exercise flat on their back should modify their exercise position to avoid the supine position.”
-2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy
Let’s Dive A Little Deeper Into Some Of These
What is meant by “moderate” intensity physical activity?
There are 3 main ways you can assess “moderate” exercise
- Heart rate
- The “Talk Test”
- Your Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
Currently, the heart rate guidelines are as follows:
If you are less than 29 years of age, moderate activity is between 125-146 beats per minute.
If you are over 30 years of age, moderate activity is between 121-141 beats per minute.
Note: moderate exercise has NOT been shown to raise our core body temperature, so if you are worried about “overheating,” fear not.
An easy way to calculate your heart rate is to feel your pulse at either the side of the neck (between your chin and the angle of the jaw) or on the “thumb side” of the inside of your wrist. Set a timer and count how many beats you feel in 15 seconds, then multiply that by 4 to get your beats per minute.
Note: always take a pulse with your fingers, not your thumb, as your thumb has its “own pulse.”
The Talk Test:
If you cannot carry on a conversation comfortably while exercising, you are exercising too hard.
Use a 20-point scale to rate how hard you feel you are working out.
For pregnancy a rating of 12-14 is “somewhat hard”
Using these 3 objective/subjective measurements throughout your exercise routine ensures you stay on track for the proposed “moderate” intensity exercise.
Remember, even if you cannot exercise the recommended amount per week, something is always better than nothing! So don’t be hard on yourself, do what you can do!
Some Common Questions And Answers When It Comes To Exercise And Pregnancy
When can I start exercising after I give birth?
As soon as your medical team has cleared you to do so! As soon as you are cleared, and as soon as you feel able, start to slowly build up into your regular exercise routines again.
Tip: If you are breastfeeding, it’s often more comfortable to exercise after vs. before breastfeeding, and because breastfeeding takes a lot of calories on its own, make sure you are getting adequate hydration and nutrition before, during, and post workout.
Should I Avoid Sports?
Yes… sports with a risk of falling, contact, or direct trauma, and unfortunately for you water babies out there, no scuba diving!
My health provider has told me I have diastasis recti (my abs are separating with my pregnancy), can I still exercise with this?
Yes you can! And you will want to work on this particular issue through strength and conditioning, but you will want to get some extra guidance and tips to help strengthen the area, while minimizing progression of the diastasis. Talk to your chiropractor, physiotherapist, or trainer, who has knowledge on this topic so they can give you adequate guidance.
The biggest thing to remember during pregnancy is…
Women Are Not Fragile. You Are Not Fragile.
As long as it is deemed safe by your healthcare team to do so, you should continue to exercise and strengthen your body prior to, during, and post pregnancy, so you can continue to live your best life! Having a newborn is physically taxing, especially if it is not your first. There is carrying the baby, nursing and soothing the baby (repetitive position), lifting strollers and car seats, extra groceries, etc. This is why it is imperative to exercise prior to, during, and post pregnancy so you can get back to daily living with increased ease.
Remember, if you are having a hard time implementing some of these recommendations and need some guidance and education, or if you are dealing with pain, discomfort, or musculoskeletal injury during your pregnancy, chiropractic care is a safe and effective form of conservative therapy to help with your needs!
The full PDF on the 2019 Canadian Guidelines can be found here: Please take a look!
Resources for this post:
Dr. Carol Ann Weis, DC and published researcher
2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity Throughout Pregnancy
MOVE TO MOVE’s Dr. Brianna Busch is a Chiropractor and has a special interest in Pregnancy Care. She loves to educate, treat, and uplift the incredible women going through their unique motherhood journey.
A born and raised Calgarian, Dr. Brianna enjoys a multitude of indoor and outdoor athletics, specifically in the world of triathlon. Her goal is to continue pushing her limits in this sport, while still enjoying the complimentary movement practices of barre, yoga, hiking, cross country skiing and trail running.