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Ask the Doctor – Jeff S. Illeck, M.D.

Q: What type of exercise is recommended during pregnancy?

A: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity during pregnancy is safe and recommended. Women have several options for safe and beneficial exercise throughout pregnancy such as walking, stationary cycling, aerobic exercises, resistance exercises (weights/bands), stretching, and water aerobics. It’s best to spread your physical activity throughout the week, with the goal of 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

The benefits of exercise throughout pregnancy are proven to have a positive impact on mothers and babies. Regular exercise will help a pregnant woman manage her weight, reduce stress, prevent or decrease risks associated with gestational diabetes and prepare her body for labor, delivery and recovery. Women commonly experience back pain during pregnancy. Targeting the abdominal and back muscles during workouts can reduce this pain. Staying active can improve a woman’s strength and stamina, often resulting in a successful vaginal delivery or vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). With exercise, the risk of preterm births, cesarean births and lower birth weights can decrease as well. Women who have maintained an exercise routine throughout pregnancy have also reported reduced recovery times and lower the risk of experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD).

Women with uncomplicated pregnancies who already participate in vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, such as running, should be encouraged to continue doing so during and after their pregnancy. Stay hydrated, wear loose-fitting clothing, avoid extreme temperatures and check with your health care provider before beginning an exercise routine.