In a new study published this month in the FASEB Journal on exercise and developmental programming suggests that a growing baby’s body and it’s very DNA can be altered by the environment it experiences in the womb, the New York Times ponders whether exercise during pregnancy will lead to exercise-loving offspring.
Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University conducted the study on pregnant mice and their offspring in which half of the pregnant mice were given a wheel to run on throughout the duration of their pregnancy, while the other half had their wheels locked. The mice pups born to moms that ran during their pregnancies grew up to be more active than those born to the sedentary group. These differences accelerated as the animals aged, and the mice born to active moms continued to be active well into the rodent equivalent of middle age.
Although we are not mice, and this study can’t tell us whether similar programming will occur in our human babies a pregnant woman — with her doctor’s permission — CAN exercise, and will improve her own health as well as that of the baby. Here are the safest and best ways to workout while pregnant.
Let me start first with the primary rule of pregnancy: Every woman is different, and every pregnancy is different. You might be too sick during your first trimester to get off the bathroom floor, let alone get out the door to go to the gym. Take it one day at a time. Paying close attention to the changes in your body that take place, and being constantly willing to revise your routine and choice of activities are key.
THINGS TO AVOID:
Rock climbing, kickboxing, activities with a high risk of falling, high impact or rough physical contact. Your center of gravity becomes greatly altered as you now have perfected the waddle walk.
Activities that push you past the point of comfortable exertion. You are sweating lightly, but you can still hold a conversation if needed.
Activities with a full-on weight loss focus. Give yourself the flexibility to eat more or rest when needed, and do workouts that you actually enjoy –not just doing the ones you think you “should” do.
As for ways to make the exercise you DO deem okay as “safe” as possible, here are my suggestions:
Check yourself before you wreck yourself (and the baby). Go to the bookstore and check out the pregnancy section for books and videos. There are great guides out there for pregnant runners, prenatal yoga and fitness regimens. You might want to steer clear of group classes that aren’t geared for someone of your pre-pregnancy fitness level. Use YOUR best judgment and sense of YOUR body and what it’s currently capable of.
Speak Up. If you do go to a group class, make sure the instructor knows you’re pregnant. Seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people I’ve had come to a class and tell me half way through the workout, “Oh by the way, I’m 12 weeks pregnant”. Find out (preferably ahead of time) if there’s modifications the instructor can offer to ensure you get the proper burn for your buck. Don’t assume that just because you’ve been to the same class 100 times pre-pregnancy, that you can self-modify along the way. Your body goes through tremendous changes as the baby grows, and the same exercises you are used to doing are going to feel different. As a general rule; if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
Baby got back. Being in the mindset that you need to “get your body back” puts you in a position to fight your current body to make it what it once was. The belief that your current body is no longer worthy, attractive or acceptable as the one you used to have is a lie. Understanding these truths will allow you to pursue improvements to health and fitness from a place of self-love, empowerment, and personal revelation. Equipped with the right mind set (even when your hormones are spiraling out of control, and the mere word “body” makes you want to burst into tears), you will be able to make more sound decisions about the food you consume and the fitness you perform based on the feedback your body is giving you.
New kid on the block. If you weren’t a runner before you got pregnant, now’s probably not the time to start training for a 5K. If you are new to exercise or haven’t been active in a while, it’s best to start slowly and work your way up to a level that is mild to moderate.
Boobs. Expect your boobs to not only double (possibly triple) in size, but also ache, throb, tingle and itch. Make sure your sports bra fits properly. Odds are, you’ll probably need a bigger one. And then if one doesn’t provide enough compression or support, double bag it. Bouncing is not your friend.
There is no right way to be pregnant. Some people love it, some people don’t. Some people are really excited about what’s coming, and some aren’t. If you find your level of enthusiasm isn’t the same as others in your prenatal class, that’s OK. It’s your pregnancy and your life.