RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Exercising throughout pregnancy could raise a woman’s odds of staying fit, and slash her risk of heart trouble later in life, according to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
THE DETAILS: Researchers contacted 39 of 52 women who had been involved in a previous study 18 to 20 years ago. That study looked at the women’s participation in weight-bearing exercise (running, aerobics, and cross-country skiing) before, during and after their first pregnancies. The women who exercised through pregnancy had gained less weight and fat since, and were more fit with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with the women who stopped exercising when they got pregnant. Women who continued to break a sweat while pregnant had nearly 10% less body fat at the time of the follow-up study.
WHAT IT MEANS: Some women may shy away from working out while they’re expecting, but low-impact exercise at moderate intensity is a good idea if you’re in good health and don’t have any complications with your pregnancy. In addition to keeping mom’s heart healthy, it can reduce stress, pave the way to a faster delivery and recovery, and promote better sleep. Plus, it’s easier to shed the pregnancy pounds after the baby arrives if you’ve been exercising.
Any mom-to-be should check with her doctor or midwife before starting a program, but here are some exercise tips for healthy mothers:
• Stick to sensible workouts. This isn’t the time for Powder Puff football. A 2008 study found that intense physical activity, like playing ball or racquet sports, more than triples the odds of a miscarriage. Also avoid scuba diving, jumping on trampolines, riding horses, and endurance training (especially at high altitudes). Swimming, riding a stationary bike, jogging, cross-country skiing, and aerobics are good exercise strategies for pregnant women. If you’re just starting out, make sure you start early (at 8 to 10 weeks), beginning with at least five bouts of exercise a week for 20 minutes at a moderate intensity. If you want to go longer, increase time and intensity every 10 days.
• Know your number. Pregnant women should stay within 50 to 75 percent of their maximum heart rate while exercising. That’s a heart rate per minute of 220 beats minus your age. An exercise heart rate monitor makes it easy to keep count.
• Take your bladder for a spin. At some point during pregnancy, the pressure on a woman’s bladder makes running uncomfortable. When that time comes, try a spinning class instead.