If you’re expecting, you may know that exercising during pregnancy is good for you and your baby. Still, you may be wondering how to safely exercise or start exercising during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The good news is that most healthy women having a normal pregnancy can continue to be physically active even during this pandemic,” says Kirstin Lee, MD, an OB-GYN at Scripps Clinic La Jolla. “However, it’s important to know your limits and to practice caution to avoid exposure to COVID-19.”
Before you do any exercises or activities while pregnant, make sure to talk to your health care provider and discuss how much you can do and what precautions to take.
Pregnant women may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Pregnant women should limit contact with people who don’t live in their household. They should practice physical distancing, wearing facial covering and frequent handwashing to reduce their risk of exposure.
Exercising can reduce the risk of pregnancy problems, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, and help ease back pain and constipation.
Exercising also promotes:
- Better sleep
- Improved mood
- Better overall fitness
- Healthy weight during pregnancy
Exercise can also help you lose the baby fat after your baby is born.
Exercise does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. But certain medical conditions can make exercising during pregnancy unsafe, including:
- Certain types of heart and lung disease
- Severe anemia
- Preterm labor
Expect some limitations exercising even if you are healthy with a normal pregnancy. When you’re pregnant, your joints and ligaments will loosen and your center of gravity will be shifted, which can increase your risk for injury.
“Let your doctor know what activities you regularly do and ask if you can continue them,” Dr. Lee says. “Your heart rate naturally increases when you’re pregnant — even at rest — which can make what used to be an easy workout much harder.”
The CDC recommends pregnant women and postpartum women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week (30 minutes a day, five days a week). This can be done with brisk walking and gardening.
If you’re new to exercising, start slowly and gradually increase your activity. If you were active before pregnancy, you can keep doing the same workout with your doctor’s approval.
Take time to warm up and cool down after exercising. Also:
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after workout.
- Wear a sports bra to help protect your breasts.
- Wear a belly support belt to help reduce discomfort while walking or running.
- Avoid becoming overheated.
- Avoid standing still or lying flat on your back as much as possible.
If you’re concerned about going to a gym during the pandemic, you can safely work out at home or outside.
You can get exercise and fresh air by going out for a walk near your home or at a park or trail near you. Just make sure it’s a location where you can keep at least six feet of distance between yourself and others. Wear a mask if you social distancing is going difficult. Do not exercise outside when it is very hot or humid.
At home, you don’t need special equipment to exercise but a temperature-controlled room helps. Sign up for an online pregnancy exercise class, designed to make your workout comfortable and reduce the stress on your joints and back.
Exercises considered safe during pregnancy include:
- Riding stationary bike
- Modified yoga and Pilates for pregnant women
Avoid activities that put you at increased risk of getting hurt, including:
- Contact sports, including soccer, and basketball
- Activities that may result in a fall, such as downhill snow skiing, water skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, gymnastics and horseback riding
- Hot yoga or hot Pilates, which may cause you to become overheated
When exercising, watch for these warning signs to stop and call your doctor:
- Bleeding from the vagina
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
- Fluid gushing or leaking from the vagina
“Whatever you do, the most important thing to remember is to listen to your body,” Dr. Lee says. “Your body will tell you if you are doing too much.”