Health + Safety
Exercise During Pregnancy: Myth or Fact?
If you’ve got a bun in the oven, working out should be near the top of your to-do list. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women get 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, unless medical or obstetric complications have doctors advising otherwise.
“I encourage my patients to continue to live a normal life and do whatever they can in the gym,” says Raul Artal, MD, chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO. That said, Artal does suggest avoiding contact sports like soccer, ice hockey, and basketball, as well as activities that might lead to a spill, like gymnastics. “Usually, it’s a matter of common sense,” he says. “You understand what will hurt you when you’re not pregnant, and you’ll know what will hurt you when you are pregnant.”
Exercising not only keeps moms-to-be looking and feeling good, but also helps reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, a form of insulin resistance that increases blood glucose levels of both mother and baby. “Exercise basically increases insulin sensitivity through hormonal mediation, and increases glucose absorption by muscles,” Artal says. Women with body mass indexes higher than 33 prior to becoming pregnant have the highest risk of developing the condition.
Regular sweat sessions may also boost the chance of a smoother delivery. “Exercise is really good for natural deliveries because it makes the ligaments that keep your pelvic bone aligned a little more flexible,” says Nicolai Foong, MD, an OB/GYN in Los Angeles.