By Alicia Ferriere, DPT, PRC
A question I am asked a lot by my pregnant patients is, “Can I continue my high impact workouts during pregnancy?” With a variety of treadmill running classes to trampoline jumping classes, it may be hard to know what is safe to do as your body changes.
First things first: always get approval from your doctor. Depending on your body and your pregnancy, your doctor may have restrictions to your exercise activity. To ensure the health of you and the growing baby, talk to your doctor.
Let’s talk about what high impact activity is. During any sort of movement, gravity is pulling your body down to the ground. If the movement involves leaving the ground and coming back to it, that force increases. High impact activity is anything that increases that force with a component of speed. To keep it basic, if both feet are leaving the ground at the same time, you’re performing a high impact activity. This can be anything from jumping rope, to running, to trampoline workouts.
It is important to acknowledge what your prior level of fitness was before pregnancy. If you were an avid runner and did high impact exercise before, your body is accustomed that kind of workout. Your body goes through a lot of physical changes during pregnancy, it’s not the best time to try something new or ramp up your fitness routine.
The body has to adapt to a lot during high impact exercise. It is not just cardiovascularly challenging, it’s challenging on your musculo-skeletal system.Your joints and muscles have to develop the proper coordination to control the force going into them. That being said, even if you did a lot of high impact exercise prior to pregnancy, it is important to listen to your body and acknowledge the changes that are happening.
As your body changes over those 40 weeks, your center of gravity changes due to the weight gain in your abdomen. This changes your posture and therefore muscle control. Your body also has increased elastin hormone that can loosen your ligaments. With any high impact activity, there is always the risk for injury. Take the time to sense the changes in your body at different times throughout pregnancy. How you feel in week 25 is going to be different to week 29. It is okay to adjust your activity accordingly. If you ever feel downwards pressure or heaviness in your pelvic floor or if you pee yourself, it is time to stop.
Overall, exercise is great during pregnancy. It improves blood flow to all parts of your body as well as to the baby. If you’re feeling that high impact activity isn’t for you, there are a variety of other workouts that can elevate your heart rate without the impact (hello FPC!). Something as simple as walking uphill can be cardiovascularly challenging and generate healthy movement to your muscles and joints without the high forces on your body.
The main thing is to listen to your body! It does a great job of giving you information- you just have to tune in to it. Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications or adjustments as you need them and make sure to always work with a perinatal fitness professional (make sure their certification is from a reputable company).