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Pregnancy

What kind of exercise can women engage in during pregnancy?

Maintaining an active lifestyle during pregnancy adds to a woman's overall health and may reduce complications. Some research shows that women who exercise have shorter easier labors, better newborn health, and higher newborn IQs. However, these same women are known to be more likely to have had routine prenatal care, overall better health prior to conception, and compliance with prenatal vitamin instructions (see below). Therefore, designing studies to discern specifically if exercise alone provides an increased benefit to these basically healthy mothers is difficult. Hence, specific benefit has yet to be demonstrated.

In studies that have looked at exercise during pregnancy, pulse rates did not exceed 140 beats per minute during exercise. These studies, therefore, do not advise women to perform extreme levels of exercise, such as competitive running, during pregnancy. Some consider swimming to be the ideal exercise for pregnant women because exercise is not affected by joint changes, balance alterations, or weight gain.

If a woman is already participating in an exercise program, she may continue with minor alterations. Women should ask their healthcare providers for specific restrictions, especially if they experience bleeding, are at risk for premature labor, or have other high-risk concerns. Pregnancy is not an appropriate time to begin aerobics classes, weightlifting, or a new sport. Walking is good for the heart and may be performed by most women. Pregnant women should avoid contact sports and activities that could result in injury. Pregnancy can make recovery from injury prolonged or more complicated.