“Extreme” Exercise and Pregnancy

By: admin Published: February 20, 2012

by Amy Flory, PT, MPT

My fellow physical therapist and expert rock-climber, Aimee Roseborrough, recently had a brush with fame when she was featured on Good Morning America in a segment about “extreme” exercise during pregnancy.  Considering that the “top-roped” climbing she has been doing in her second pregnancy is generally safer than, say, driving to the climbing location, the only “extreme” part of the whole thing was the hateful commentary by an uneducated audience (and the naïve expectation by the field reporter that he should try climbing for the first time without bringing proper equipment—see Aimee’s blog)

However, the situation does illuminate the fact that there are still many people out there that believe some old wives’ tales about pregnancy and exercises—and, that not everyone posting on internet sites knows much about climbing techniques.

Now, don’t get me wrong; there are times, such as higher-risk pregnancies, when exercise should be very carefully monitored, and sometimes restricted.  And, there are some women, me included, that simply cannot exercise at all during pregnancy.  I could scarcely climb off the couch without vomiting, let alone be in a moving vehicle on the way to climb a big rock.  The startling lack of cooperation on the part of my body shattered any pre-pregnant preconceptions I had about being one of those women who would run miles and miles during their glorious, relatively-pain-free pregnancies.

Prenatal Exercise Guidelines

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists publishes a working list of guidelines on exercise during pregnancy; it is updated at times based on the most recent studies.  Over the past decade, these guidelines have become more broad and general; I’ve summarized them below.

  • For women with normal pregnancies, 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily provides many benefits (this is the same intensity and duration recommended for non-pregnant women).
  • If you’ve been engaged in a certain activity or sport before pregnancy, you probably can continue it during pregnancy (as long as you’re not getting injured, and it’s not a contact sport).
  • You need to avoid lying on your back after the first trimester.

Yoga mama? Maybe not…

Contrary to the serenity suggested by ethereal music and deep breathing in a yoga class, prenatal yoga can actually be very stressful to the maternal joints and ligaments, especially in asymmetrical stances.  If you’re not experiencing low back or hip pain, by all means continue your yoga classes!  However, if you are getting sharp shooting pains in the low back or buttocks, you may need to significantly alter your routine, or discontinue it altogether.

These kinds of pains usually indicate a need for physical therapy intervention.  Talk with your physical therapist about your exercise activities during pregnancy for recommendations on how to keep active without causing lasting injury to your body!

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