By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM
If you're a mother-to-be looking to improve the chances of a healthy heart for your new addition, you can start with a strong pre-natal exercise program. Although you should certainly talk with your doctor about your prenatal workout plans, the old rules of no impact and keeping your heart rate under 140 no longer apply. General recommendations allow a mother to continue her previous level of activity or begin a moderate workout program during pregnancy. If you were regularly using your treadmill, elliptical, or recumbent exercise bike before pregnancy, your new addition doesn't need to put a damper on your home workouts.
Even if you’re new to exercise, you can reap the benefits of increased stamina for labor and delivery, prevent gestational diabetes and prevent overall discomfort through exercise. Just don’t suddenly begin a new strenuous activity. Low impact workouts on the elliptical and exercise bike or walking on the treadmill can prepare you for child birth as well as improve the health of your baby. The convenience of home fitness equipment is wonderful, but swimming is another great option if you have access to a pool.
Need more motivation to get your heart(s) pumping? Recent research shows that the babies of mothers who worked out intensely during pregnancy actually have healthier hearts than the babies of sedentary mothers. "This training response lingers apparently even after birth… Babies born to mothers who exercised while pregnant were found to have healthier hearts than other infants a full month after delivery…the babies born to exercising mothers continued to have lower heart rates and greater heart-rate variability four weeks after delivery than the babies born to the other women. The effect was especially robust in the children whose mothers had exercised the most, Dr. May said; they had the slowest heart rates and presumably the strongest hearts."
When working out for two, just make sure to listen your body and don’t overdo it on the fitness equipment. Wear comfortable, supportive clothing and shoes to accommodate the activity you’re doing. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workouts and make sure you’re consuming enough calories to support both your active lifestyle as well as your pregnancy (typically an additional 300 calories per day). If you experience any unusual pain or discomfort, stop exercising and consult your health care provider.
Weigh In: Are you continuing your at-home workouts or beginning a new program during pregnancy? What changes have you made to accommodate your new body?