Pregnancy is a beautiful time in a woman’s life. She gets to experience a new life growing inside her while noticing subtle changes in her body. Although pregnancy may be portrayed as an uncomfortable or even painful experience, it doesn’t have to be. With the help of moderate exercise, pregnancy symptoms can be reduced while giving your body a head start in preparing for labor. Engaging in regular exercise during pregnancy can reduce symptoms such as backaches, bloating, and weight gain. What’s more, exercising while pregnant can also benefit women by boosting mood and energy levels, promoting muscle tone and endurance, and even reduce the risk of having a C-section. Before you hit the treadmill with a baby on board, it’s important to learn about how to properly exercise while pregnant. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Benefits of physical activity during pregnancy

If you previously believed exercising while pregnant is bad for the body, banish that thought from your mind. Exercising while pregnant is very beneficial for yourself and your baby for a variety of reasons. First, physical activity can greatly reduce the likelihood of unpleasant pregnancy symptoms such as stress, backaches, bloating, swelling, weight gain, and fatigue. Remember, though, this is not the time to focus on weight loss. Excessive weight gain prevention is possible, but your body will naturally gain weight as your pregnancy matures and your baby begins to develop. Exercising while pregnant can also reduce your risk for gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that develops when women are pregnant. If you exercised during your pregnancy, you’re also likely to have an easier time during labor. This is because regular exercise builds stamina and endurance, two qualities that are absolutely necessary when giving birth. What’s more, you don’t need a gym membership to reap the benefits of exercising while pregnant. Easy-to-access exercises like walking around your neighborhood on cool days or online prenatal yoga videos will do the trick. In addition, exercising while pregnant isn’t just good for mothers, its good for developing babies, too. Women who exercise during pregnancy are shown to give birth to babies with less body fat, better heart health, and more advanced brains. Babies with less body fat are more likely to grow optimally and less likely to suffer from obesity later in life. When it comes to heart health, mothers who engaged in aerobic exercises had lower heart rates, which is considered a sign of a healthy heart. This low heart rate was passed down to their babies, which indicates the babies’ nervous systems controlled their hearts at optimal levels. Furthermore, women who had at least 20 minutes of exercise for three days a week during their pregnancy, birthed babies with greater cognitive development and brain function. It is recommended that pregnant women participate in 30 minutes or more of daily, moderate exercise, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Who knew exercising while pregnant was so integral to infant health?

Listen to your body

The most important part of exercising while pregnant is to listen to your body. Pushing yourself too hard while exercising can lead to injury, increased stress levels, and other health problems. As a general rule of thumb, it is important to keep your exercise activity at moderate levels. However, the definition of “moderate” is unique to every pregnant woman. Some women who were very physically active before pregnancy may need a more rigorous routine for exercising while pregnant than women who are not used to regular exercise. If you’re feeling overworked by your pregnancy exercise routine, try alternating your normal moves with low-intensity workouts like walking, swimming, stationary cycling, light elliptical training, or some prenatal yoga. This is especially important for women who are newer to exercising. Your body will need time to adjust to higher activity levels. If you’re used to more intense workouts and you want to challenge yourself as you exercise while pregnant, consider activities like Zumba or weight training. If you have questions about what exercises may be too intense, talk to your doctor for more information. Generally speaking, pregnant women should avoid high-impact activities that risk bodily injury or falling. In addition, pregnant women should avoid exercising outside during hot days or other high-temperature activities like hot yoga. High temperatures can lead to heat stress, heat stroke, and dehydration. At the end of the day, find an exercise at a pace that feels right for you. Don’t let anyone deter you from exercising while pregnant. How you feel and your doctor’s recommendation should come first.

When exercise is not recommended

Some women may have unique health considerations that should be considered before exercising while pregnant. Medical issues such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes may produce adverse effects to exercise, therefore, risking yours and your baby’s health. You should speak with your doctor before you exercise while pregnant, if you experience any of the aforementioned conditions. Women may also want to avoid exercising while pregnant if they suffer from pregnancy-related conditions such as bleeding or spotting, low placenta, threated or recurrent miscarriage, previous premature births, history of early labor, or a weak cervix. If you happen to experience any of these conditions and still wish to exercise, schedule a meeting with your doctor to discuss your pregnancy exercise options. Again, every woman’s body is different. Your personal doctor or obstetrician will be able to give you specific, individualized feedback for your unique situation.