Exercise During Pregnancy: You’ll Both Benefit

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By ACSM

Pregnant woman exercising

It’s as inescapable as the return of spring. As writers have pointed out repeatedly on this site and as researchers have documented in study after study, physical activity is good for everyone. The benefits (health, fitness, well-being, self-image and more) accrue from bouts as brief as ten minutes and accumulate through daily activities such as housework, gardening, walking the dog or playing with the kids. We must continually help people understand that physical activity is for everyone, regardless of age or condition.

Expecting? Keep active!

Pregnancy should not keep women from a healthy dose of activity. Exercise during pregnancy and postpartum is a professional interest of mine; I’ve seen how appropriate levels and kinds of activity can help keep mothers and babies healthier and happier. Both during pregnancy and after delivery, exercise can help the mother through improved cardiovascular fitness and in many other ways. Postpartum benefits also include mood improvement and weight management. Some evidence points toward shortened labor and reduced risk for certain complications. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans spell it out, based on solid evidence and in lay terms.

Among the key recommendations:

  • Healthy women who are not already highly active or doing vigorous-intensity activity should get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Preferably, this activity should be spread throughout the week.
  • Pregnant women who habitually engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or are highly active can continue physical activity during pregnancy and the postpartum period, provided that they remain healthy and discuss with their health-care provider how and when activity should be adjusted over time.
  • Pregnant women who habitually engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or are highly active can continue physical activity during pregnancy and the postpartum period, provided that they remain healthy and discuss with their health-care provider how and when activity should be adjusted over time.

Pregnant women should review the recommendations in full, including activities to avoid and the wisdom of seeking a health-care professional who can provide knowledgeable guidance. Armed with solid information and motivated by the desire to achieve the best health for themselves and their babies, pregnant women can remain active through pregnancy and beyond.

What has been your personal or professional experience with exercise during pregnancy?

What barriers do you see that make it difficult for pregnant women to achieve beneficial levels of exercise, and how can we overcome those barriers?

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