The importance of staying active and exercising during pregnancy is often understated with regular activity being healthy for both mother and baby. Regular exercise, coupled with a healthy diet, can help you feel better overall while giving your growing baby the nutrients they need to grow. If you’re looking to stay healthy and fit during your pregnancy, here is what you need to know.
Safe Exercises During Pregnancy
It’s a common misconception that you can’t exercise effectively while pregnant; however, the truth is that with consideration and a bit of modifying, you can safely continue your workout routine without worry. Those who are conditioned for exercise will be able to continue their normal routines during the first few months gradually stepping down to less intense routines as the pregnancy progresses. For example, if you’re used to high impact aerobics, stepping down to a low impact routine will be beneficial.
If you’ve not used to exercise in your daily life, but are looking to start a healthier routine during pregnancy, activities such as walking and swimming are considered the best to start with. If you have a dog, taking a 30-minute walk around town with them is a great way to stay active — both for you and your furry friend — however, if a dog isn’t available you can always substitute one with your husband or use the opportunity to hit the mall and walk around for a day of shopping with your friends!
The best rule of thumb for performing most exercises when pregnant is to use caution, listen to your body, and not overdo it. Most women will benefit from light aerobics, bicycling, swimming, and walking; however, activities such as racquetball and tennis are also considered safe to perform while pregnant as they are low contact and can be played casually. Playing tennis while pregnant can have some surprising benefits that many expecting mothers might not realize.
Sports like tennis and racquetball can burn around 169 calories every 30 minutes of play for the average woman. During pregnancy, this can help prevent excess weight gain, as well as help ease both physical and mental stresses including:
- Lessening the effects of depression
- Improving physical discomfort, leg swelling, back/pelvic pain, and the development of varicose veins
- Easing delivery
While these benefits can help relieve the general discomfort that can come along with pregnancy, it’s also important to make sure you speak with your doctor before beginning any new routines. You should also take care to ensure that you are dressed correctly for any physical activities, meaning loose-fitting clothes and proper shoes. Because ligaments loosen throughout pregnancy, without the proper support you could be at a higher risk for ankle sprains when performing physical activities. This makes proper attire and footwear exceptionally important.
Furthermore, it is important to ensure that you stay both cool and hydrated while performing any type of exercise. Staying hydrated can help prevent cramping muscles and additional discomfort while staying cool helps prevent overheating that could harm the developing child. That said, with these precautions in mind nothing is stopping you from taking advantage of exercise and physical activity when pregnant.
Healthy Diets During Pregnancy
“One of the trends I see is more discussion on food quality and ingredient sourcing,” says Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE, author of Real Food for Pregnancy.
While exercise is important, without the proper diet, it can be hard to maintain the energy to stay active. A proper diet also helps ensure that your baby gets the nutrients it needs to develop properly and healthily. Poor eating habits can also put expecting mothers at risk of gaining excess weight and developing gestational diabetes. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that average adults consume at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1.5 to 2 cups of fruits every day, with some specific types specific types of fruits and vegetables being recommended for pregnancy. These include:
- Broccoli and Dark Leafy Greens
Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and kale all contain important nutrients that are vital to pregnant women. Rich in antioxidants, these vegetables also contain ample amounts of vitamins C, K, and A, along with calcium, potassium, iron, and fiber.
- Legumes and Sweet Potatoes
Legumes such as peas, lentils, beans, peanuts, and chickpeas all contain calcium, folate, fiber, and protein. Folate, also called B9, is especially important for fetus development in the first trimester, and the vitamin has been linked to the prevention of low birth weight, and a lowered risk of infection and disease later in a child’s life. Likewise, sweet potatoes contain vitamin A, which is important for proper growth in tissue and cells. During pregnancy, it is advised to increase your intake of vitamin A by up to 10-40% to ensure healthy development.
Berries can also provide a great nutritional boost as they are loaded with water, vitamin C, healthy carbs, and antioxidants. Berries also don’t carry the risk of inducing blood sugar spikes.
Often not thought of as a fruit, avocados are packed with monounsaturated fatty acids which can help with skin, tissue, and brain development in babies. They are also a great source of folate and B vitamins, along with vitamin K, vitamin E, vitamin C, and copper. They also contain even more potassium than bananas, making them a great choice for relieving leg cramps.
Expecting mothers can also benefit from snacking on dried fruits and nuts which act as a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Though it is recommended to stay away from candied versions of dried fruit due to the additional added sugars.
Working with Your Doctor
Throughout your diet and exercise routine you should be in constant contact with your doctor to ensure that everything is going as it should. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the right types of exercises you can do without strain, as well as what types of foods you will benefit most from.
Nutritionists are also something to consider when creating your pregnancy diet plan, as they will be able to advise on the types of vitamins you need most, and which foods you should consider eating more of. Because nutritionists take your body type and medical conditions into consideration, this is often the best way to find a healthy diet that will work best for both you and your baby.
By working alongside your doctor and a nutritionist you can reap the most benefits from your exercise and diet plans, without worrying about putting your growing baby at risk. Eating healthy and staying active is possible throughout pregnancy and with the help of these professionals, you can be sure to stay on the right track.
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The Bottom Line
Staying active and eating right is critical throughout pregnancy to ensure that both mother and baby are healthy and happy. Remember to listen to your body and take precautions before undertaking any physical activities, especially if your body is unaccustomed to strenuous workouts. Slow and steady workouts are key while taking care to stay both cool and hydrated. Additionally, remember to speak with your doctor about which fruits and vegetables will benefit you most, and consider implementing these into shakes or smoothies that you can enjoy both in the morning and after workouts. A few small changes should help you on your way to a successful and healthy pregnancy.