Check out our Mommy & Me Pilates classes to help build lifelong exercise habits! View our class schedule here!
by Holly Fergason | Featured on Pilates Style
Pregnancy is such an exciting time filled with preparations—from putting together cribs to stocking up on onesies. During pregnancy, women focus on eating the right food, getting adequate vitamins and staying away from harmful chemicals, caffeine and alcohol, which are all very important lifestyle changes.
But what can moms-to-be do to create lasting positive impact long after pregnancy?Exercising is one of the best things a mom-to-be can do with broad, long-term benefits such as stabilizing joints to positively affecting labor and delivery, and building an exercise habit. Exercise can also become a ritual of carving out time for yourself—a habit which will be tremendously important once the baby arrives.
Most experts agree that pregnant women need to exercise to be healthy and that most women with uncomplicated pregnancies can safely exercise. A healthy woman with a normal pregnancy may either continue her regular exercise regimen or begin a new exercise program during pregnancy. Be sure to check with your physician for your particular exercise prescription.
Dr. Shelby Scott argues in an ACSM Health and Fitness Journal article that exercise positively affects pregnancy, labor and possibly pregnancy outcomes. More than 90 percent of women who exercise during pregnancy will continue to exercise afterwards, says Dr. Scott. An exercise habit is extremely important as our nation faces an epidemic of obesity. Plus, moms who exercise are more likely to have kids who exercise, which is a double win!
Women who exercise during pregnancy experience fewer musculoskeletal problems, including less back and pelvic pain, and increased cardiovascular fitness, body image and well-being. Who wouldn’t want this impressive list of benefits?
Pregnancy is probably not the time for serious competition, or to increase fitness or performance levels. It should be thought of as a time to maintain strength. For women who are continuing their regular exercise regimen during pregnancy, exercise intensity should not exceed pre-pregnancy levels. Moderate-to-hard intensity is safe for a woman who is accustomed to this level of exercise. I’m sure you’ve seen articles in national press where women do insanely difficult workouts during pregnancy. Women who do these things are already insanely strong before they get pregnant.
Recently I posted the article, “Maintaining the Core During the 3rd Trimester of Pregnancy ,” which hopefully gave some helpful ideas about why core work is important during pregnancy. Pilates provides an awesome core and general conditioning workout during pregnancy.
Pilates can be the perfect exercise method because it’s gentle, stabilizes the joints and spine, focuses on alignment and form, and generally is done in small groups for optimal instructor feedback. Additionally, Pilates helps to stabilize joints due to ligament laxity from hormone changes, and reduces the aches and pains of carrying a pregnancy. Plus, this added awareness of support muscles around the major joints will help prevent injury while doing light to moderate aerobic exercise during pregnancy. Pilates, for the most part, is not aerobic, so you will not need to monitor heart rate as much as with other kinds of exercise.
So what are the guidelines for exercising while pregnant?
The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American College of Sports Medicine suggest keeping the heart rate below 140 beats per minute while exercising and recommend 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days, if not all, days of the week.
It can be easy to meet these basic guidelines. For the aerobic component try short walks at a moderate pace throughout the week, checking to be sure your heart rate stays below 140 bbm.
Go one step further by adding Pilates to support this aerobic activity and ensure your joints stay happy. Take prenatal Pilates sessions that incorporate brief, light aerobic elements such as bouncing on the stability ball, as well as bands and light weights to maintain joint strength.
Gadget Lover? Anyone who loves new technology should look at getting a cool wristband heart rate monitor that syncs with your computer. These gadgets can track how much you walk and give you milestones for success, plus they offer all kinds of other nifty stats like sleep. They make being active super-fun!
Definitely get your health care provider’s OK for any exercise during pregnancy—and then get movin’!
Photos by Lindsay Phillips and courtesy The Movement Factory, Lakewood Ohio.
Kimberly Horstman, 25 weeks pregnant Alyssa Lee Wilmot, 39 weeks pregnant