Exercise During Pregnancy: Myth vs. Fact
Experts say what's safe and what's not safe when it comes to staying fit during pregnancy.
In the not-so-distant past, women were urged to cut down on or even avoid
exercise during pregnancy. Today, we know differently. Not only is it OK to
participate in fitness activities during pregnancy, but doing so can have a positive impact
on both baby and mom.
"You need to be physically active during pregnancy. It has terrific benefits
that are associated with a better pregnancy outcome and even shorter labors.
It's a win-win for baby and for mom," says high-risk pregnancy expert Laura
Riley, MD, spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists (ACOG) and author of Pregnancy: You and Your Baby.
Yet it seems that myths surrounding fitness and pregnancy just won't go
away. Indeed, experts say that truisms about what's safe and what's not abound,
leaving many women confused and ill-advised.
"There are so many rumors out there, some started or perpetuated by popular
pregnancy books, others the result of old wives' tales or outdated advice, so
that many women really are confused about what they can and can't do," says
The Truth About Exercise in Pregnancy
Ready to test your smarts? The following questions, vetted by several top
fitness and medical experts, will set the record straight on what's really OK
when it comes to exercise during pregnancy.
Of course, consult with your doctor before you start any exercise
program. Some women will not be able to exercise during pregnancy because
of specific conditions or complications.
Myth or Fact: Never get your heart rate over 130 while exercising during pregnancy.
Myth. There is no one "target" heart rate that's right for every
pregnant woman. "People are still stuck on this heart rate issue, and it was
never based on anything concrete," says Riley, noting that ACOG abandoned the
"target heart rate" concept a long time ago. What they and most experts now
rely on as a guide is RPE, or rate of perceived exertion.
"This is a scale that determines how hard you are working based on how you
feel when you are working," says Farel Hruska, certified fitness trainer and
the national fitness director for Stroller Strides and their Fit To Deliver
pregnancy workout program.
Myth or Fact: It's not safe to do abdominal work during pregnancy.
Myth. Not only is it OK, experts say abdominal workouts can provide many benefits.
"Your abdominals and your entire core, including your pelvic floor, should
be strengthened throughout pregnancy, and doing so will help not only during
pregnancy, but also aid in labor
and delivery -- and recovery," says Sue Fleming, a certified fitness
instructor. Fleming is also founder of Buff Fitness.com and creator of the
video Buff Moms-To-Be.
Moreover, Fleming says, it's going to help with posture problems which will
also benefit you after baby is born.
Because you should avoid any exercises that you have to do on your back
after the first trimester, Fleming suggests gentle standing pelvic tilts,
seated belly breathing, or tightening abs, holding, then releasing, as good
ways to keep ab muscles in top condition.