Q: My wife is pregnant and I’d really like to work out with her. I have always been a bit of a jock, and I think it would be good for her to get some exercise too, but I’m worried that it might hurt the baby. Are there any exercises that are safe for us to do together?
A: If she’s already in good shape and her doctor approves, there’s no reason she can’t keep doing pretty much what she’s been doing. If she wasn’t a regular exerciser, this isn’t the time to take up rock climbing or start training for a marathon. At the same time, she shouldn’t plan on spending the entire pregnancy on the sofa. The key is to start easy and not push her if you see she’s feeling winded or tired.
Getting sufficient exercise is critical. It will help improve her circulation, which will ensure that the baby has an adequate blood supply, and it will keep her energy level high. Exercising during pregnancy may also help your partner keep her weight gain steady and reasonable, help her sleep better, improve her self-esteem, reduce some of the normal pregnancy-related discomforts. It’ll improve her strength and endurance, which will be helpful during labor and delivery, and may even reduce the chance that she’ll deliver prematurely or need a c-section.
Whatever you do, remember that you and your partner will get the most benefit and lower your chance of getting injured if you exercise regularly-three times a week-rather than sporadically. Be aware, though, that some health clubs-out of fear of getting sued-will ask a pregnant woman to provide a letter from her doctor.
Here are some sports to do together:
- Speed walking or even running, if she’s already in shape
- Cycling, but avoid those bumpy dirt-bike rides
- Noncompetitive tennis
- Easy weight lifting
- Paddle tennis
On the other hand, here are a few important workout no-nos:
- High-impact sports or anything where she could take a hard fall. There’s a lot of disagreement about whether or not it’s possible to induce a miscarriage by falling. Still, just to be safe, most high-impact activities should be avoided.
- Skiing. Unless she’s an expert, and even then she should take it easy.
- Hot tubs/steam baths/saunas. Raising a pregnant woman’s body temperature by more than two degrees could be dangerous to the fetus. To cool itself, the body moves blood away from the internal organs-including the uterus-and toward the skin.
- Anything involving heavy lifting. This can put unnecessary pressure on internal organs
- Anything too exhausting. If she can’t carry on a normal conversation while exercising, she’s working out too hard
- Anything that could lead to overheating. Your partner shouldn’t overdress and she should keep her workouts moderate. Remind her to take plenty of breaks and drink plenty of water before, during, and after the workout.
Before starting any kind of workout program, discuss the details with your practitioner and get his or her approval. If you’re doing anything that’ll work up a sweat, be sure to get enough fluids. Both of you should drink a cup or so an hour before starting and another 4-8 ounces or so every fifteen to twenty minutes while you’re working out.