Health / Pregnancy

5 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Prenatal Workout Routine

Exercise throughout your pregnancy—the right way.

Whether it’s adjusting your diet, making sure to get plenty of sleep, or giving your body the rest it needs to accommodate the new tenant taking up space in your uterus, there are plenty of things that you can do during your pregnancy to keep yourself (and your baby!) happy and healthy.

Exercise can definitely be one of those things. But you can’t just jump on a treadmill and start doing sprint intervals when you’ve got a baby on board. If you want to incorporate a prenatal workout routine, talking to your doctor is an absolute must.

Aaptiv has prenatal experts to help keep you safe and healthy during your workouts. Check out our maternity program here.

“It is so important to consult your doctor before starting a prenatal program because every pregnancy is different,” says Aaptiv Trainer Jaime McFaden. “Your body is going through so many changes, and you want to ensure [that] you are working out in the best way possible for you and baby. Even if you have been working out prior [to your pregnancy]—it is important to get doctor clearance…Safety is first!”

So, before you start exercising during your pregnancy, you need to have a sit-down with your doctor. Here are the five questions to ask your doctor before starting a prenatal workout routine to make sure you (and baby!) stay safe, healthy, and happy throughout your pregnancy.

Should I be exercising?

The first question you need to ask your doctor is: should you be exercising at all? And in the vast majority of cases, the answer will be a resounding yes. “Exercising in pregnancy should be a part of every pregnant woman’s daily routine. It is not only incredibly beneficial for a pregnant woman, but also for her growing baby,” says Dr. Sherry Ross, MD, OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.

That said—even though exercise is a great way to support your health during pregnancy—you still need to get the green light from your doctor before starting a prenatal workout routine. Every pregnancy is different. Depending on your current health, there may be precautions you need to take in order to start working out safely. “Before beginning your exercise program, talk to your doctor [and/or] healthcare provider to make sure that you do not have any restrictions on activities chosen,” says Ross.

Want to see our prenatal fitness programs? Check them out here.

How much should I be exercising?

Once you get the green light to start working out (hurray!), it’s time to get the specifics from your doctor. And, the first detail you need to iron out? How much you need to be exercising.

Finding the right balance of activity and rest during pregnancy is crucial. “Too much exercise can be a bad thing, and [the] same with too little,” says McFaden. “You want to move. Your doctor can give you guidelines based on your pregnancy, specifically.”

Ask your doctor how often you should be working out each week. Plus, how long you should be working out each session. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to how often or how long you should work out. Your doctor will have to assess your pregnancy and the current state of your health. But, as a general rule of thumb, 30 minutes of exercise a few times per week is a good goal.

“Thirty minutes of exercise, preceded by five to ten minutes of warm-ups and stretching, and followed by five to ten minutes of cool-down, is recommended at least five times per week,” says Dr. Gerardo Bustillo, MD, OB-GYN at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA.

Our pregnancy workouts will give you just what you need. Learn more about them here

What exercises should I be doing during my pregnancy?

Once you’ve figured out the how of your prenatal workout routine (how often and how long), it’s time to figure out the what. Ask your doctor the specific exercises you should be incorporating into your workouts. Some activities are better for pregnant women than others. Your doctor can give you the best exercises to support your health and body while you’re carrying your little one.

So, what are some of the best exercises for pregnant women?

“The best exercises for a pregnant woman are those that activate large muscle groups in a rhythmic and continuous fashion,” says Bustillo. “Examples include walking, aerobic dance, swimming, cycling, rowing, and jogging.  These exercises combine proper muscle stretching and strengthening while maximizing cardiovascular benefits.”

“Pregnancy affects joint stability, balance, coordination, and heart rate fluctuations, so choosing a safe exercise is very important,” says Ross. “The safest and best exercises to accommodate the body changes in pregnancy include brisk walking, light jogging, swimming, recumbent cycling, yoga, elliptical, and other stationary work-out machines.”

Not sure which exercises you should do? Aaptiv’s maternity program has you covered.

What exercises should I avoid during my pregnancy?

Just as important as the exercises you should be doing during pregnancy, are the exercises that you shouldn’t be doing. Make sure to ask your doctor what exercises to avoid during your prenatal workouts. This can include contact sports, heavy strength training, or anything that puts you at risk of abdominal injury. “Exercises to be avoided include contact sports, such as boxing, soccer, and basketball; snow skiing; racquet sports; and scuba diving,” says Ross.

“Physical workouts in which there is a high risk of falling and causing abdominal trauma should be avoided. In addition, activities involving jumping and quick changes in direction are discouraged, given the generally increased risk of joint injury during pregnancy. Joints are less well-supported during pregnancy because of the increased relaxation of ligaments,” says Bustillo. “Heavy strength training is also not recommended because bearing down (Valsalva maneuver) causes decreased blood flow to the pregnant uterus.” Exercises performed flat on the back are also discouraged after the first trimester because of the risk of lowering blood pressure.

What are some signs that the exercise I’m doing is too intense?

Once you and your doctor have ironed out your prenatal exercise routine, it’s important to get the information you need to stay safe during your workouts. Ask your doctor for warning signs that you’re working out too much, too hard, or doing the wrong exercises—all of which can put you at risk. “Stop exercising and call your doctor [and/or] healthcare provider if you get any of these symptoms: vaginal bleeding, dizziness or feeling faint, increased shortness of breathe, headache, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, uterine contractions, decreased fetal movement, or fluid leaking from the vagina,” says Ross.

“When exercise is prolonged to the point of causing dehydration and/or dangerous elevations in core temperature, it should be stopped immediately,” says Bustillo. “Also, if the exercise routine is excessive to the point of interfering with the expected weight gain during pregnancy, it should be modified.”

“If a pregnant woman isn’t feeling well during or after a workout, that could be a sign [that] they should try a different program,” says McFaden. “Dizziness, pain, and headaches are something to look for. Dehydration can be a big issue during pregnancy, so make sure to keep water with you at all times.”

Pregnancy is an exciting time of changes in a woman’s life. A prenatal workout routine can be the cherry on top of a healthy pregnancy if performed correctly. Talk to your doctor about these five questions, as well as any others, in detail.

Ready to get started on your fitness journey? Start with our prenatal programs here.

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