Q: I’m planning on having my second child next year. Can I continue with my existing workout routine of weight lifting three times a week and doing step aerobics three times a week while pregnant? If not, what would you suggest as an alternative to avoid gaining unnecessary weight?
A: Next to not smoking and avoiding alcohol and other harmful drugs, exercise is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your baby. But first you need to get your doctor’s okay. There are certain conditions such as pregnancy-induced hypertension, placenta problems, or preterm labor during a prior pregnancy that may make exercise during pregnancy risky. Your doctor is the best person to advise you on whether or not to exercise and how much to do.
If you get your doctor’s blessing, here are some general guidelines to ensure a safe workout:
- Maintain your usual level of activity – don’t increase it.
- Drink plenty of water to prevent overheating and dehydration.
- Never exercise to exhaustion.
- Avoid any activities with a risk of falling or trauma to the abdomen.
- As pregnancy progresses and your center of gravity shifts, be careful of activities requiring balance.
- If additional weight is presenting a difficulty, switch to non-weight-bearing exercises such as swimming or stationary cycling.
- If you experience any pain or bleeding or if your water breaks, stop exercising immediately and call your doctor right away.
Being fit should make pregnancy, labor, and getting back in shape afterwards easier. In one study, researchers found that women who exercised at least three times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes throughout pregnancy gained an average of seven pounds less than women who didn’t exercise.
However, keep in mind that pregnancy is not a time when you should be watching your weight too closely. If you’re a healthy weight when you get pregnant, you need to gain between 25 and 35 pounds for the health of your baby. (If you’re underweight, you’ll need to gain 28 to 40 pounds. If you’re overweight, you can gain slightly less – 15 to 25 pounds).