Debunking myths about exercise in pregnancy

This content is sponsored by Johns Hopkins Medicine

Pregnancy represents one of the greatest physical changes you will ever experience. To support you and your growing baby, eating healthy is key, but so is staying physically active. But what’s the safest way to exercise during the pregnancy?

Johns Hopkins maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Sibley Memorial Hospital help debunk common myths about exercise and pregnancy.

Myth #1: If you don’t usually exercise, you shouldn’t start during pregnancy.

Pregnancy is actually an ideal time to start an exercise program.  You should consider easing into an exercise routine if you did not work out before pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends moderate-intensity exercise for at least 20-30 minutes per day on most or all days of the week. The following are ideal exercises during pregnancy:

  • Walking: Walking at a moderate pace can be a great, easy way to fulfill the recommended guidelines. If you’re walking, you should be able to walk and talk at the same time. If you can’t, you should slow down.
  • Gym activities: Working out on the elliptical, doing water exercises in the pool and swimming are healthy and safe ways to stay active.
  • Pilates or yoga: Pilates and yoga can be mentally and physically beneficial. Hot yoga is not recommended–you should always stay cool and hydrated while pregnant. Also, avoid motionless postures, and certain yoga positions – especially if flat on the back.

The most important thing while performing these exercises is to keep it at a moderate level. Don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion.

You should be careful with exercises that could cause you to lose your balance. Riding a bicycle, for example, might not be the safest form of exercise due to the increased fall risk. What’s most important is to find something you enjoy while staying safe. Talk to your doctor to see what works with your personal history.

Myth #2: Athletes can continue vigorous exercise throughout pregnancy without cause for concern.

If you’re an athlete with a healthy pregnancy, you can usually maintain your exercise regimen. You should talk with your health care provider about what’s best for you.

It is important, though, not to push yourself beyond a ‘safe’ threshold, which could affect the fetus. It is also important to avoid becoming over-heated or dehydrated. Be sure to consume enough calories as to prevent weight loss, which could affect fetal growth. Your physician can provide you with more guidance to find the right balance.

Myth #3: The only value of exercise during pregnancy is to help you lose weight more easily after your baby is born.

Exercise during pregnancy helps with weight management and may reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and C-section delivery. Exercise is a huge component of postpartum weight loss.  Your metabolic function improves and your risk of developing cardiometabolic disease decreases. Even if you don’t see immediate weight loss, you should continue to exercise for your internal health.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. And that’s just as true during pregnancy.

­­­­­­­Rita Driggers, MD, is the medical director of maternal fetal medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, at Sibley Memorial Hospital and an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Julia Timofeev, MD, is a board-certified Ob/Gyn with maternal fetal medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, at Sibley Memorial Hospital and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

To learn more about their work, visit sibley.org/mfm.

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