Exercise is crucial to stay fit during and after pregnancy


Mother-to-be performs a strength pose. Photo credit: Tanya Torres

Finding out you’re going to be a mother is overwhelming, especially with the physical changes going on inside the body, but continuing an exercise routine allows women to benefit greatly throughout their pregnancy, local health professionals say.

Most pregnant women can tailor their workouts to meet her physical needs and the health and safety of her baby. Discussing exercise plans with their doctor early on establishes what adjustments are needed to continue a normal exercise routine. For women who don’t regularly go to the gym, their level of exercise will depend on their level of pre-pregnancy fitness.

“With patients with normal pregnancy, no pre-term labor, no risk of low implantation and no issue of bleeding (basically a normal pregnancy) we recommend to start exercising as soon as you’re pregnant,” said Dr. Jorge Aranda of Providence Women’s Health Partners.

For pregnant women dealing with any complications that might hinder their fitness abilities, he suggests choosing an easier workout routine to reap the benefits of fitness. He also emphasized the importance of a pregnant woman continuing the same level of physical activity as long as there is no impact or risk of the patient getting hurt or falling on their stomach.

“We don’t recommend doing full strength, low reps with high weight. We prefer to have more reps with lower weight, so basically you will be working more on your tone instead of trying to build muscle during the pregnancy,” he said.

Exercises like water aerobics, cycling, cardio and yoga are the ideal types of workouts for expecting mothers. These workouts are especially beneficial for pregnant women who rarely worked out because of their low risk of getting hurt.

CrossFit enthusiasts should still be able to enjoy daily classes but might have to slow down on box jumps, especially if they are two-to-three feet high. Box jumps can be too extreme and risky for pregnant women because of the risk of a fall, fitness experts say. They recommend pregnant women who do CrossFit continue their normal workouts but decrease the weight and avoid jumping especially high jumps.

“The intensity will stay the same, but the weight definitely will change,” said Fernando E. Marquez, a Bullstrong trainer with an M.A. in Human Health and Sports Fitness who is a father of two. “I recommend workouts in low impact, strength training, stretching, brisk walking, cycling, rowing, swimming, toning exercises and isometric exercise which is really good for women in general,” Marquez said.

Workouts that have less or no impact on the joints and the back are ideal during pregnancy. Activities like swimming, yoga and water aerobics put less stress on the body and is a great whole body exercise, according to Aranda.

Regular crunches should be avoided, however, doing planks and using a weight for side core workouts are still recommended. Also, low back exercises will help a the mother-to-be continue to stabilize her core and strengthen her back in preparation for the nine months of pregnancy and the actual birth.

For pregnant women who don’t enjoy going to the gym, there are simpler exercise classes to help them feel at ease. One for women with infants is the BYOB Baby Wearing Workout taught by personal trainer and nutritionist coach Amber Banda, a mother of two. The classes are held on Monday’s at 10 a.m., at Mytime Fitness and women don’t need to be a gym member to participate.

“There are regular benefits of exercises like improved coordination, fat loss, strength, energy, but aside from that I see that the babies follow along with the movement,” said Banda. Exercising with the baby on your chest, she said, “helps their immune system; it actually helps them develop better and some studies claim that it may even help their IQ. It also really helps with postpartum anxiety,” she said.

The BYOB class does not involve jumping if the the woman is exercising with their baby on their chest. These workouts can be modified depending on a previous injury.

Although the class, which includes sumo squats, upper body with weight, pushups on the wall or floor, planks, cardio and ends in a yoga pose, encourages new moms to carry their baby while they exercise, they don’t have to if it’s places too much stress on their bodies. Some leave their babies in strollers or let them play with toys while they exercise.

“It’s pretty tough and based on the age of the baby that corresponds to where they are postpartum,” Banda said. “So I say focus on form, don’t focus on going too low or lifting a lot of weight because you’re still fresh,” she said.

At Bullstrong, trainers tailor their classes to needs of each client. Although the classes are not just for pregnant women, the team of trainers modify the workouts and advise pregnant clients to take the beginners class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 to 7 p.m. They recommend pregnant women wear a heart rate monitor on the wrist or on their bellies while they exercise.

“You want to keep your baby’s heart rate below 150 beats per minute…,” Marquez said. “If your heart rate is going fast that means your baby’s heart rate is going faster. We watch out for that and jumping. We don’t want to have a placenta preva where you have a detachment of the placenta and are at risk of miscarriage,” he said.



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