Not too long ago, women were told to sit back and relax as soon as they found out they were pregnant. As an expecting mom, the idea of resting for 9 months may sound lovely, but it's likely impractical. Not only do you have keep on living your life, but staying active during pregnancy is very important to your health and baby's. According to the American Congress for Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) exercising moderately for 30 minutes every day (as long as your doctor gives you the okay) minimizes common pregnancy-related discomforts and health problems.
Even when you get your doctor's green light, there's no shortage of opinions about what is safe and what isn't, and there's a lot of fear than can make you want to not exercise. So to put your mind at ease and get you moving, we wanted to give you a little reality check on working out while expecting. Here are five common pregnancy fitness myths, debunked.
MYTH 1: If you did it before, you can do it now; but if you didn’t, now is not the time to start. Always consult your doctor before exercising, but whatever you did before getting pregnant (within reason) should be safe to continue. That said, your body is different now, and exercising may feel more difficult or may just not feel right. That's okay. Listen to your body and don’t feel like you need to push through just because you used to be able to do it. The good news is, if you weren’t active before you were pregnant, now is actually the perfect time to start. In fact, the real threat is inactivity, which can contribute to excess weight gain, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, aches and pains and a higher risk for a C-section.
MYTH 2: Avoid core exercises. The risk here is that most standard abdominal exercises put too much pressure on the abdominal wall, causing it to separate at the midline - a condition called Diastasis Recti. However, it is important to continue to strengthen the inner most core muscles - your diaphragm and your transverse abdominals. An active diaphragm massages your organs and your baby as you breath, and strong TVA muscles support the baby and prevent overstretching of the abs, minimizing the post-baby “pooch.” Breathing through the diaphragm instead of your chest, and contracting your lower abdominals on the exhale is a simple and effective way to engage the core throughout your entire pregnancy. For more core exercises, click here.
MYTH 3: Avoid strength training. Pregnant women’s bodies are constantly changing and are at greater risk for injury while exercising. That's because the hormone Relaxin loosens your joints to prepare your body for giving birth. But when done correctly, strength training can actually keep your body strong and properly aligned, which not only can keep injuries at bay, but also preps you for labor and postpartum recovery. Your core, glutes and thighs are all active during delivery and in everyday activities, such as lifting the baby out of the crib, picking toys up off the floor and even getting in and out of bed. So practice diaphragmatic breathing and do squats and lunges -- it will get you in shape for all of that.
MYTH 4: Kegels are overrated. You hear a lot about kegels, but while they sound straightforward, there is still a lot of confusion around where they are and what their role is. I personally underestimated their importance, and after pushing out a 9 pound baby, I wish I had been a bit more diligent about them. Kegels are done by contracting your pelvic floor muscles, so imagine you’re going to the bathroom and then stopped yourself mid-pee. Those are the muscles you’re looking for. They help push the baby through the pelvis during delivery, and support the bladder, uterus and rectum, so you want them to be strong. The best part is you can kegel anywhere, and no one will know you’re doing it!
Myth #5: Keep your heart rate below 140bpm. It was long believed that pregnant women needed to keep their heart rate below 140bpm during a cardio workout to ensure their safety and the safety of their baby. Unfortunately, this rule caused lots of women to avoid cardio altogether, either not knowing how or not wanting to measure their heart rate. Thankfully, this rule is no longer enforced and instead, we opt for a looser translation to make sure women stay active. The “talk test” is an easy-to-remember and easy-to-implement test. All you need to do is make sure you can carry on a conversation while working out. If you find that there is no way you could talk comfortably while exercising, it’s time to take it down a notch.
Mom of a baby boy, Carolyn Tallents is a prenatal and postnatal health coach, focusing on nutritional needs for mom and baby, as well as safe and effective exercise from trying to conceive through the postpartum period. Check her website here.