It's been almost a decade since the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued exercise guidelines that recommend moms-to-be exercise moderately for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week. But just what does "moderate exercise" mean—and what workouts are safe for pregnant women? To answer these questions, researchers are back with some refined guidelines for physical activity during pregnancy.
According to a study published by ACOG, the latest exercise recommendations for otherwise healthy pregnant women include:
- For muscle strengthening, use light weights (on Nautilus-type machines) and more repetitions. "Heavy weights may overload joints already loosened by increased levels of the hormone relaxin during pregnancy," researchers note.
- Resistance bands might be a safer choice compared to free weights, which may hit the abdomen when used.
- Ride a stationary bike for about five hours a week.
- Walking lunges, which may raise the risk for injury to pelvic connective tissue, should be avoided.
- Don't lift weights while flat on your back, beginning in the second trimester, because it can inhibit blood circulation. Instead, exercise on an incline.
As Medscape reports, researchers also say that more emphasis needs to be placed on women listening to their bodies as they exercise. "If you feel muscle strain or excessive fatigue, modify the moves and reduce the frequency of the workouts," study authors suggest.
Why not just take it easy until your due date? According to ACOG, sticking to a faithful exercise schedule during pregnancy can help reduce backache and constipation, prevent and treat gestational diabetes, lift lagging energy levels, improve mood—and even improve your posture! Plus, regular physical activity can keep you fit during pregnancy and may improve your ability to cope with the pain of labor.
Make sure to talk to your doctor or midwife about whether exercise is right for you. Women with certain medical conditions or complications may be advised to take it easy during pregnancy.