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Should You Continue (or Start) Exercising When Pregnant?

20 August 2018

By: Jamie Kaun

As a mom of three kids ages 3-9 years old, I’m well aware of how much energy and enthusiasm young children have – and how exhausting that can be for a caregiver.

When little people are relying on you, it’s important to take care of yourself. After several years of inconsistent exercise, I finally got back into a regular fitness routine (5-6x a week) nearly a year ago. Despite the increased strength and endurance I’ve built up, I recently found myself feeling fatigued more quickly and nauseated. After struggling a few weeks and questioning whether I could maintain my fitness routine, I learned I was pregnant with my fourth kiddo.

I decided I wasn’t going to make excuses when it comes to exercise. Pregnancy is not going to give me a “pass” to become less active – after all, I had worked too hard to make it a priority after so many years of inactivity. I was greatly inspired by women like Andrea Shuman that I saw rockin’ it in YMCA fitness classes like kickboxing, group power and CSI (cardio strength interval). She has four young kids and is nearing the end of her pregnancy with her fifth child.

“Prior to my last pregnancy, I had been running 25-35 miles a week and wanted to continue,” says Andrea. “Unfortunately, sciatic pain from a previous injury flared up and I stopped exercising when I was about 18-20 weeks pregnant. After I had that baby, it was so hard for me to get back into running and a regular exercise routine.”

Andrea decided that with her current pregnancy, she was going to listen to her body. She stopped running and participates in group exercise classes to maintain her level of fitness. She hopes that this approach allows her to get back into working out more easily after having her baby.

What also helps encourage Andrea is her workout buddy, Kristi MacNeill, who is also in her third trimester with her fourth pregnancy. Like Andrea, Kristi is an avid runner who found she had to adjust her routine. “I’ve been exercising regularly for the last 5-6 years, including during multiple pregnancies. I took kickboxing classes up until the birth of my last child. I also got back into regular exercise six weeks postpartum. It just wouldn’t make sense to stop – working out is my ‘normal’ and when I don’t do it, it really changes how I feel,” says Kristi.

Dar Reid, Sr. Health and Wellness Director for the Coffman YMCA, agrees with Andrea and Kristi – if you exercise regularly, don’t stop just because you’re pregnant. “Exercise is safe while pregnant. It’s important to know your body and make changes if needed,” confirms Dar. “Of course, you should always consult your healthcare provider when in doubt.”

Dar herself ran a marathon while pregnant with her first child. On the morning of her scheduled c-section for her second child, she worked out just hours before giving birth and got back into her usual fitness routine quickly after her daughter was born. “For some, working out during pregnancy can keep you in shape, aid with an easier birth and make recovery faster. I found that to be true for me. I continued doing what I was doing and it definitely helped.”

While I’ve had to make a few adjustments to my routine, these women have inspired me to continue making exercise a priority. Several of my healthcare providers have encouraged me to do the same. While you should always consult your own healthcare provider, the general consensus from everything I’ve read, seen on the internet with a search, healthcare providers I’ve spoken with, etc. says the same thing, particularly if you’ve been exercising regularly—keep moving, listen to your body and adjust your routine as needed.

But what if you haven’t been exercising regularly? Can you start now that you’re pregnant? The answer is yes. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, pregnancy is not the time to suddenly decide to become a marathon runner, but you should absolutely get moving! Consult your healthcare provider for the “green light” to begin exercising and consult a fitness professional, like one of the Y’s personal trainers, if needed for guidance on how to get started.

Bottom line—the benefits of exercise is well-known, including during pregnancy and there are many resources available for more information, including What to Expect, which offers a comprehensive guide, including week-by-week suggestions, the best and worst exercises during pregnancy, what to eat and much more.