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    pregnant woman enjoying exercise

    How to exercise safely through pregnancy

     

    Why 30 minutes a day can impact a lifetime.

    Friday, March 13th, 2020

    You’re pregnant so you should rest and avoid exercise, right? Wrong! The common notion that exercise during pregnancy might harm your baby has been discredited. In fact, the opposite is true for most women. According to the latest Canadian guidelines, at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical exercise per week, spread over at least 3 days, can have numerous health benefits for you and your baby.

    Five great reasons to be active during your pregnancy

    1. Helps keep your pregnancy weight gain in check

    2. Helps improve your health and fitness level

    3. Can boost your mental health

    4. Helps reduce your risk of pregnancy complications, like pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension, or gestational diabetes. Learn more about gestational diabeteres here

    5. Helps prepare your body for labour and delivery

     

    Exercising at home while social distancing

    It may seem difficult to get a workout in right now, but it’s important to keep moving during this time. Try to continue to follow the usual recommendations on how to stay healthy during pregnancy - staying active at home can be beneficial for both your physical and mental health.

    Consider that it may be better to stay at home and away from other people while exercising. As well, be mindful of any advisories in your community. If you do choose to go outside, be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before you leave and when you get home, and avoid touching your face. Read more tips on social distancing.

    Here are some ways you can stay active while social distancing.

    • Walk around your neighbourhood, if possible. Remember to keep a distance of at least 2 arms length away from others, as much as possible, and to avoid large crowds and public areas.
    • Keep up a routine at home with Yoga, Pilates or other low impact exercises. Check your local studios to see if they are offering any online content during this time.
    • Visit YouTube and search “prenatal home workouts” or search free workout apps for daily workout ideas and routines.

     

    Suggested Reading

    Pregnancy weight gain

    Learn about recommended weight gain during pregnancy.

    Food choices for a healthy pregnancy

    Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much food, but it should mean making your food work twice as hard.

    Check in with your doctor

    Before running out the door, it’s important to first discuss your exercise plans with your doctor.  If you’re healthy and have always exercised and kept fit, you can likely just keep it up. If you’ve led more of a sedentary lifestyle before you got pregnant, there is still time to start to get active now. You may need to start gradually with lower impact activities, like walking or swimming, and then build up how long and how often you exercise.  

    Physical activity may not be right for every pregnant women. They aren’t definitive no’s but there are certain conditions that do need special consideration, so discuss with your doctor first if you have:

    • Experience with a previous miscarriage or premature labour
    • Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
    • Heart or lung disease
    • Anemia
    • Other significant medical conditions

     

    Keep moving

    Canadian experts recommend that most pregnant women be physically active for at least 150 minutes per week, spread over at least 3 days per week – and it’d be even better to be active every day.  This can range from just doing your regular household chores (gardening, dog walking) to activities like brisk walking, water aerobics, spinning (but don’t go all out!), and resistance training.

    You can also consider pregnancy yoga or Pilates exercise classes – in addition to be being specifically designed around you and your growing baby, they allow you to meet other moms-to-be, which can be fun and motivating!

     

    Don’t forget the warm-up & cool down

    Save time for a warm-up and cool-down. This will help to prepare your body for exercise and decrease the likelihood that you will injure yourself while exercising. Including prenatal stretches as part of your workout routine can also give you additional flexibility and strength.

     

    What to skip

    You have increased body weight due to your baby, and a shift in your centre of gravity means your coordination and balance will be off, so the potential for a fall or injury increases. Keep this in mind when choosing your activities.  It’s also best to avoid physical activity in excessive heat, especially with high humidity, to avoid dehydration.

    Avoid:

    • Anything that could result in abdominal trauma
    • High-impact sports
    • Contact and fast-paced team sports
    • Extreme sports
    • Ice skating
    • High-impact weight-bearing exercises
    • High altitude workouts over 1,800 metres or 6,000 feet (You may affect the amount of oxygen that gets to your baby)
    • Hot yoga
    • Outdoor activities once the summer temps rise

     

    Eating and drinking for an active lifestyle

    Staying active, combined with eating a balanced, healthy diet, can help you keep your weight gain under control.  Eating a variety of healthy foods, like vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods, and protein-rich foods, will help support the healthy development and growth of your baby, and give you the energy you need to be active. Learn more about a healthy pregnancy diet and nutrition.

    It’s also easy to get overheated when you exercise, so make sure you keep a bottle of water handy before, during and after your physical activity.

     

    Dress for success

    Choose an exercise outfit that will deliver until you do. You want clothing that will keep you and your baby from getting too hot while you work out. So keep the tight yoga-wear in your closet for now. You can put together a great outfit by pairing cotton pants or shorts with an oversize t-shirt. Cotton is ideal because it draws moisture off your skin, and the loose shirt will allow good air circulation. Avoid sweat pants and sweatshirts that will make you too hot.

     

    References:

    Government of Canada, 2020. Canada’s food guide: healthy eating when pregnant and breastfeeding. Available at: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/tips-for-healthy-eating/pregnant-breastfeeding/

    Mottola MF et al., 2018. No. 367-2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. 401(11):1528-1537.

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