The anticipation of bringing a new life into the world is one of the most exciting and joyous times in woman’s life. Some women feel great during their pregnancy while others feel downright sick. During this special time, it is very important to take really good care of yourself which in-turn affects the health of your baby. Exercise is a great way to maintain your overall health during pregnancy. Here are a few precautions to be mindful of (taken from AFAA Personal Fitness Training Theory & Practice – Special Populations):

1. Obtain medical clearance from your doctor before you start an exercise program. If you were already exercising prior to pregnancy, you can usually do the same types of cardiovascular exercises that you have done before (in moderation). Now is not the time to focus on weight loss or high intensity cardio training. Most physicians recommend 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity most days of the week. If you are new to exercise try low impact activities like walking, swimming, stationary biking, or specialty classes such as pregnancy aerobics or Yoga. Beginners should start slow and not have the expectation of becoming an athlete while pregnant. If you did strength training before you can continue with your usual routine, but avoid adding additional weight or striving for a maximal lift. Because your balance changes as your belly grows, you may wish to have a spotter for certain strength training exercises or prefer to do the moves seated if possible. Be sure not to hold your breath while lifting. Exhale on the lift or the work part of the exercise.
2. Avoid activities that put you at high risk for falls or abdominal trauma. Examples include downhill skiing, water skiing, horseback riding, gymnastics, racquet sports, and contact sports. Avoid scuba diving and be cautious when exercising in altitudes >6000 feet (altitude sickness). Discontinue activities that may call for jumping, jarring, or quick directional changes.
3. Listen to your body. Pay special attention to how you feel during your workout. Energy levels fluctuate during pregnancy and you’ll have some days that are better than others for physical activity. The following are signs of exercising too strenuously: pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, feeling faint, difficulty walking, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, muscle weakness, decreased fetal activity, contractions, vaginal leaking or bleeding. If you experience any of these symptoms you should stop exercising immediately and seek medical care.
4. Discuss with your physician what exercises you should avoid. The usual recommendations are:
a) Discontinue doing any exercises on your back after the first trimester.
b) Get checked for diastasis (a split in the rectus abdominis muscle) and discuss your doctor’s views on abdominal work during pregnancy. Working in the side-lying, standing, or all-fours/table positions are the best.
c) Try not to stand for long periods of time.
d) Don’t workout in hot, humid weather or when you are sick.
e) Avoid high impact/high intensity cardio activities that spike your heart rate. Do not exercise to exhaustion.
5. Be careful while stretching. Ligaments become more relaxed during pregnancy due to a hormone called relaxin. This causes laxity of your joints (makes them more mobile) and could put you at an increased risk of injury. Keep stretches static (no bouncing). The main stretch to use caution with is the seated adductor stretch (commonly called the butterfly: seated with soles of feet together & knees apart). You can still do this stretch, but don’t push down on the legs or the inside of the knees. Stretching is a valuable component to your exercise program and should not get skipped.
6. Do pelvic floor exercises (Kegals). These should be performed often. Kegals strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which helps prevent or reduce urinary incontinence. See website for directions.
7. Practice good nutrition! Everyone says you are “eating for two” now which is true; however, you should only increase your calories by 300/day. Adding more calories than this will result in unwanted weight gain and more pounds you’ll have to lose post pregnancy. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, calcium rich foods, and drink plenty of water. Make sure to take your prenatal vitamins.

Exercising throughout your pregnancy can improve the overall health of you and your baby. The long list of benefits far out weigh the risks associated with working-out during pregnancy. It’s important to listen to your body and don’t overdue it or push yourself (especially on the days you don’t feel well). If you need help with exercise or dietary advice, consult a personal trainer or registered dietitian. Maintain close contact with your doctor and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Most of all…enjoy this exciting time in your life!

Author's Bio: 

Wendy Stoll is a certified personal trainer with over 21 years of experience specializing in designing exercise and weight management programs for women. She travels to your home or office to make working-out as convenient as possible. Wendy can be reached at (517) 303-9413,,