Melissa Jones, authorToday, we have a special guest post for our mommies-to-be. Pregnancy does not have to keep you away from a fit lifestyle! The author Melissa Jones is the Head of Marketing Communications at We Are Top 10. She is a “procaffinator” who loves reading any kinds of books and passionately writing blogs on different topics.

You may believe that you don’t have time for working out, but even a 20-minute daily commitment could be beneficial to both you and your child. Unless you have medical problems, exercise during pregnancy can make the whole experience less stressful. This isn’t an “on again – off again” proposition. It’s easier on your body and more effective to keep an established routine rather than the hit and miss approach.

Many women report raised energy levels and a general sense of well-being from regular workouts as well as resting better at night. If at all possible, sticking to a schedule helps. You’ll want to choose a time of day (or night) when your energy levels are at their highest. Following are ten things to keep in mind when considering a “pregnancy” workout.

  1. Check With Your Healthcare Professional First

Whether you worked out before pregnancy or not, it couldn’t be more important to get cleared by your doctor before starting or changing a workout program. There are cases where it’s not okay to exercise while pregnant. As long as your pregnancy is uncomplicated your doctor will most likely tell you the following.

  • Stick to an established workout routine but avoid trying anything your body isn’t already used to.
  • Walking isn’t new for most of us, so if your healthcare provider advises against working out you can still benefit from walking on a regular basis.
  1. Stay Hydrated and Make Sure You Are Taking In Enough Calories

Allowing yourself to become dehydrated can cause a dangerous chain of events that affect the amount of blood flow to the placenta and can even bring on contractions. There aren’t any set rules for how much water a pregnant woman needs, but when you workout you’re going need more than normal. Generally, a gallon or so every day is sufficient and when in doubt, a Doctor can tell by the color of your urine if you’re getting enough to drink.

  • If urine is dark yellow that signifies dehydration.
  • Some people have difficulty drinking water because of its blandness. Infused water comes in so many flavors these days finding a few favorites should be easy.

Exercise burns calories and you need to replenish them for your baby’s sake as well as your own. While it’s not a good idea to gain an excessive amount of weight, some gain is natural and necessary. This is another area you need to discuss with your doctor. It’s important to know how many calories you need on the average day (especially when working out) and get as close to the mark as you can.

  • Unless advised by your doctor, pregnancy is not the time to worry about dieting or weight issues. You need those calories to keep up your strength and make a healthy baby.
  1. Wear Comfortable Clothing

Skin needs to breathe when you heat up while working out. Dressing is easy to remove, loose layers will enable you to peel them off one at a time as you become warmer. Even tight underwear should be avoided because it will allow sweat to collect and bring on overheating.

  • Comfortable shoes and a good maternity bra are “must haves” for working out.
  • Women with hair long enough to touch their neck stay cooler wearing a hair band to keep it away from the skin.
  • Even if you don’t need new shoes to accommodate swelling feet, it’s a good idea to insert gel liners that act as shock absorbers on old or new shoes.
  1. Some Sports Are Not A Good Idea

Any sport that may involve bumping into another person or affect balance should be avoided for obvious reasons. Cycling might involve a fall but if it’s something you’re used to it should be okay in the beginning. However, in the later stages of pregnancy, a stationary bike is considered safer.

Some sports don’t require contact but should be avoided anyway, such as scuba diving. The unborn aren’t protected from the effects of pressure and this could affect fetal development. Other sports to avoid are

  • Horseback riding in case of a fall.
  • Water sports such as surfing or skiing. Even if you are landing on water when you fall it could still hurt you and the baby.
  • No matter how good your balance may seem, any sport that risks a fall is dangerous while pregnant and that includes gymnastics.
  1. Avoid Working Out In Heat or Humidity

In warm weather, working out indoors with air-conditioning or in a pool helps avoid overheating. Keep in mind that your body doesn’t disperse heat as effectively when the air itself is hot. Unfortunately, this includes saunas and hot tubs. Increased blood flow and a higher metabolic rate come with pregnancy so you will already feel warmer than usual and overheat faster than in your pre-pregnancy days.

  • Signs of overheating differ from woman to woman. Feeling nauseated, dizzy or short of breath are common signs and should never be ignored.
  • A quick fix is get to a room with air-conditioning or steps into some cool water. Don’t forget that drinking plenty of liquid and using common sense can help avoid this problem.
  1. Preparation Helps Avoid Muscle Strain

Warming up gets muscles and joints ready for what’s coming as well as increasing the heart rate at a slower, safer place. Yes, after all the talk of dangerous over-heating, now you’re told “warming up” for a workout is necessary to avoid muscle strain. It’s true though. Best advice is simply to start slowly and increase speed gradually. Jumping in right away at high speed is dangerous and only contributes to extra aches and pains when the workout is over.

  • If you plan to do a little walking, start out at a stroll until you naturally pick up the pace and start walking a little faster.
  • If you plan on swimming, push off slowly until muscles are loosened and again, speed will pick up on its own.
  1. Don’t Lie Flat On Your Back

A heavy uterus puts pressure on a vein called the “vena cava” and this can reduce blood flow to your womb, heart, and brain. Once you get past the first trimester, most doctors advise against flat lying on your back for any reason, especially for exercise. This makes you feel lightheaded, short of breath and nauseated. Some women feel no discomfort from this position even in the last trimester, but that doesn’t mean the blood flow to the uterus is unaffected.

  • If you feel an urge to sit up after exercising on your back, don’t ignore it. That’s your body telling you something important.
  • Many women find that using a foam wedge or pillows to support the upper body enables them to lie almost flat without danger of compressing the vena cava.
  1. Stay In Motion

Anything that requires you to stand still for long periods of time such as yoga poses, for example, should be avoided. This can reduce the flow of blood to the heart and uterus as well as cause blood to pool in the legs. It can also lower blood pressure and make you feel dizzy. Keep moving, slowing your pace gradually to give your heart rate a chance to regain its normal rhythm.

  • Never go from full workout mode to standing still without a “cooling off” period.
  • Once you’ve completed your routine, walking in place is an excellent way to cool off safely.
  1. Keep To A “Reasonable” Routine and Sensible Pace

Exercising to exhaustion is not a good idea. If you don’t have the breath to talk normally while you’re working out, slow down. Sometimes pain, when you exercise, is a sign of progress, but not if you’re pregnant. When something hurts, stop immediately because you need a break, never force yourself to go on. One sign of working against yourself is if you feel drained after a workout instead of invigorated, you are working too hard.

  • A good personal rule would be if you just completed a 30-minute routine, you need at least a 30-minute rest immediately after.
  1. Get Up Slowly

The larger your belly gets, the more your center of gravity changes. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to dizziness if they rise too quickly or change positions suddenly. Obviously, this risks a fall, so the slower you move from a lying down position the safer you will be.

  • This advice includes standing up suddenly from a bent over position. Any sudden movement while pregnant is likely to cause dizziness and should be avoided.

What’s really important to remember is the idea is to stay fit for a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. Studies show that women who are physically fit often have an easier time with childbirth than those who aren’t. Clear your choice of workout with your doctor and then begin, that’s all you need to do to increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy and also make getting back into shape after your child is born that much easier.