How to incorporate pregnancy fitness in your 30s
There isn’t really an ideal age for pregnancy. Some people feel that in your 20s, you have peak energy and a resilient body. Some say the 30s are better: You’ve had time to live a little, get established in your career, and maybe have a few more dollars in the bank. I had two babies in my late 20s and am now pregnant with my third at age 33 (almost 34). So far, this pregnancy feels like the others to me. One thing is for sure, and that is that being physically active is equally important whether you are 20 or 45 and pregnancy fitness has a lot of benefits.
Fitness has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve always enjoyed fresh air and being active. Growing up, I can remember doing Body Electric (a workout show that was on TV in the 80’s) with my mom, I ran a lot (track and cross country), roller bladed, explored, took bike rides, worked out at the local YMCA, and was a cheerleader.
In college, I decided to pursue Exercise Science as my major, in hopes of helping others in their pursuit of wellness, and to educate those who weren’t sure how to live a healthier lifestyle. I continued to be active through most of college, too.
In the ten years since I’ve graduated from college and had two young children, exercise has taken the back burner. In the last several months, however, it’s become a focus in my life again – one that I knew was missing and I finally prioritized. I am still enjoying being active most days and have found myself at the point where my body craves a work out physically AND mentally — and I plan to stay active and pursue a pregnancy fitness regimen.
There is a lot of fear and confusion around pregnancy and exercise. Yes, pregnant women can indeed exercise (speak with your doctor first, though). One thing to keep in mind is that exercise when pregnant, especially in your 30s and beyond, is a little different. Wondering if you should dial down your cardio? Avoid certain machines at the gym? Not sure if yoga is safe?
Here are some tips to help you in your pregnancy fitness pursuit.
There is nothing wrong with good ole walking while you are expecting. If you were active prior to pregnancy, don’t stop now. If you weren’t active, it’s an okay time to start — beginners should start walking about 30 minutes three times per week. Once you are comfortable with that, go ahead and work your way to longer time increments during more days of the week.
During pregnancy, it’s important that you scale back the intensity of your walking. There is a good way to make sure you are exercising at an appropriate level, and that’s using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. On a scale from 0-10, you want to aim for an intensity of 3 to 5, where you can still talk but not sing loudly. Unless you are power walking or walking up hills, you will likely be at a level that’s safe for you and your baby. Pregnancy fitness is often about adjustment, not abstaining from all exercise.
Go ahead and try all cardio machines during pregnancy. Trying all machines is ideal in case one machine becomes undoable; you’re already familiar with the others. The treadmill is great — it allows you to bump up the incline if you want more of a challenge, or leave the incline as it and walk on a flat surface.
The elliptical is low-impact, which means it doesn’t place much stress on your joints. This machine can sometimes feel uncomfortable during pregnancy if women are feeling pain or pressure in the crotch area.
The stationary bike – both upright and recumbent – works well for pregnant women unless their bellies get in the way. A positive of the recumbent is the back support it provides.
Yoga is one of my favorites! It is great for pregnant women. It strengthens the core (abdominal and back muscles and those around the pelvis – muscles that need to be strong to help your body carry the extra weight from the baby) and improves flexibility. Yoga movements are gentle and the activity focuses on meditation and breathing – great things to practice prior to delivery. Make sure to avoid exaggerated moves such as twists, any movements that tug on your stomach, or moves that require you to lie flat on your back or belly. Of course, headstands and shoulder stands are pretty obvious no-nos – save those for later!
It’s great to work your abs, but when you do, you need to use caution. Avoid positions where you lie flat on your back — this can cause your blood pressure to lower, and as your uterus grows, its weight can potentially deprive your baby of oxygen.
Women should keep their abdominal muscles strong to prevent back pain caused by the extra weight we carry while we are expecting. A great exercise for pregnant women to do is a plank. Start by lowering onto all fours so your wrists are under your shoulders. Bring your knees off the floor while keeping your back flat so your body forms a straight line. Hold for one to two breaths, working your way up to five breaths.
Many women are unsure if they can or should work out during pregnancy and have no idea what is safe. Remember that your body may tire more quickly, and that’s normal and okay when it comes to pregnancy fitness. If you aren’t working out yet, talk to your doctor before you establish a pregnancy fitness regimen. An active lifestyle is fun and its payoff during pregnancy is huge. Consistent exercise delivers better sleep and can lower your risk of gestational diabetes and depression. It can even help shorten labor and result in a less complicated labor. If that’s not a reason to get active, I don’t know what is!
What are your favorite workouts to do during pregnancy?
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