Pregnant and Fit
Exercising to stay healthy
Gone are the barefooted-pregnancy days of pickles and ice cream. Today’s expectant moms are lacing up Mizunos and hitting the gym.
Jenny and Chris Myers (the Houston Texans’ center) are expecting their fourth baby, the oldest of whom is ... 4. But all the babies and all the pregnancies during the past few years haven’t slowed Jenny down. In fact, she’s amped up her routine.
“I’ve always done weight training, so with my first pregnancy I maintained that and did a little bit of cardio,” Jenny says. “But this pregnancy, I had started with my trainer just after my son was born [he’ll be 2 in the spring]. I was working out at a higher level before I got pregnant, and I just continued.”
Dr. Katy Bolt says that’s exactly what expecting moms should do. “They should continue whatever they’re used to doing. If they’re not exercising, I encourage them to walk just to avoid excessive weight gain, which can lead to all kinds of issues like gestational diabetes or large babies that would require C-sections,” says the obstetrician/gynecologist at Partners in OB/GYN Care at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women.
Dr. Bolt also warns that inactivity during pregnancy creates a downward spiral. “Swelling increases, causing more discomfort. Then you want to sit more and exercise less. Then there’s more swelling.”
With friends Caroline Walter (whose husband Kevin is the former Houston Texans’ wide receiver) and Hillary Jebbitt, both of whom are also expecting their third and fourth babies, respectively, Jenny has been working out with trainer Shelley Kutsch. The friends meet at Shelley's home studio three days a week. Exercises include kickboxing, treadmill runs and work on a Bosu balance ball.
Being safe is “all about listening to your body,” Hillary says. “I’ll be running and get a cramp, so I’ll stop. I’ll scale things down. Like if we’re on the treadmill, I’ll max out at level six instead of eight or nine.
“In my first pregnancy I didn’t exercise because I thought I would hurt the baby,” Hillary says. Trainer Shelley hears that fear a lot. “Women might get scared about exercising while pregnant,” she says. “But if you’re smart and work with someone who knows how to work with pregnant women, especially someone who has had kids and knows how it feels, it’s okay.”
The benefits of staying active during pregnancy are multitude. “You get a little endorphin kick if you do a mid-morning workout after you drop off kids, and you’ll have a push to get through the afternoon,” Shelley says. Add to that better circulation to prevent swelling, muscle memory to help post-baby bodies remember how to get back into shape and added support for the lower back in the form of strengthened legs and gluteal muscles. Not to mention, “I just feel better,” Jenny says.
Risks are low, and most are associated with “overdoing it or falling while exercising,” Dr. Bolt says. “I recommend the ‘talk test’ for my patients. If you find that your frequency of breathing is so increased that you are unable to have a short conversation during exercise, you are likely overdoing it.”
Dr. Bolt especially recommends swimming. “You will feel 10 times lighter in the water, which feels like heaven to pregnant women.” Things to avoid: motionless standing after the first trimester, contact sports or anything with a risk of falling.
It’s hard to find time for exercise when you’re working or a mom or both. “The more kids you have, the harder it is to find time,” Jenny says. “But even when I was pregnant with my third and couldn’t get to the gym, I’d go for a walk and put the baby in the stroller. It’s so easy to just sit on the couch, but I feel so much better if I make the time.”
As a mom of a 3 year old and a newborn (she spoke with The Buzz on her first day back to work after maternity leave), Dr. Bolt can relate. “I tried to stay active while I was pregnant, but I sympathize with women working with children. My advice is to try to do things with your kids. We took walks in the evenings with the tricycle.”
Dr. Bolt reminds patients, “Remember that the goal is not to lose weight or to look better. It is simply to feel better during the pregnancy, to stay healthy for your growing baby, to hopefully make childbirth easier and to avoid unnecessary complications.
“If you keep these goals in mind, it is easier to motivate yourself to maintain an exercise routine during the pregnancy. Just do what feels good.”
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