Is It Safe to Do Indoor Cycling During Pregnancy?

What you must know when you're exercising for two.

You’ve probably heard that exercising during pregnancy is good for both the mom-to-be and the baby. After all, staying physically active while you’re pregnant can enhance blood circulation, ease backaches, improve digestion and sleep, boost your mood and energy, help you manage your weight gain, and promote muscle tone, strength, and endurance (which you’ll need for childbirth!). In its latest recommendations, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advised pregnant women to exercise more often because many women gain too much weight during pregnancy.

But it’s important to exercise wisely during the nine-month stretch, especially to accommodate your changing body—not only the extra pounds you’re toting around, but also your increasingly relaxed ligaments, the shift in your center of gravity, and so on. The good news is: Stationary cycling is on ACOG’s list of exercises that are safe during pregnancy.

Indoor cycling is ideal because you won’t confront balance challenges or have heavy impact on your joints. Even so, you should get the green light from your ob-gyn before exercising during pregnancy, in case you have any underlying medical conditions that might limit your activity options. Assuming he or she tells you to go for it, it’s important to take certain precautions. For starters, remember that you’re essentially exercising for two, which means it’s easier for your heart rate to rise more quickly and for you to become overheated—so take it easier on the bike than you would if you weren’t pregnant!

Here are 6 key precautions to take:

Talk to the instructor beforehand. Whether or not you’re showing yet, tell the instructor that you’re pregnant before the class starts. This way, she can keep an eye on how you're doing and won’t push you too hard. She can also give you important pointers on how to modify the ride to suit your needs.

Stay cool and well hydrated. Wear comfortable, breathable clothing that will help you stay cool and a bra that offers plenty of support to protect your swollen breasts. Drink lots of water throughout the workout—even more than usual!—to help you avoid overheating or becoming dehydrated. 

Modify your bike set-up. As your pregnant body continues to change, you may need to adjust the saddle position and raise the handlebars to stay comfortable. It’s a good idea to sit more upright (which means raising the handlebars and bringing them closer to you), instead of leaning forward, to relieve strain on your lower back.

Dial down your intensity. During pregnancy, it’s best to exercise at a moderate intensity so don’t even think about going full throttle during indoor cycling. To make sure you stay in a safe intensity, wear a heart-rate monitor. It’s also important to pay attention to the ratings of perceived exertion scale (RPE) because even if your heart rate isn’t too high, if you’re gasping for breath or you feel like you might pass out, you need to back off right away!

 

Stay in the saddle. In the early months of pregnancy, you may be able to ride in a standing position, no problem. But as your burgeoning belly changes your body’s center of gravity and puts more pressure on your joints, it may be too much for you to ride standing. Don’t worry: You can still get a good workout if you stay seated the whole time—and most importantly, you’ll avoid overdoing it or injuring yourself.

Heed your body’s signals. You should always do this while exercising but it’s especially important while you’re pregnant. If you get winded, dizzy, or don’t feel well while you’re riding, take a break or take your effort down a few notches. And if a 45- or 60-minute class is too much for you, feel free to depart early (just let the instructor know you’re okay). During pregnancy, your energy is likely to ebb and flow, along with other symptoms, so listen to your body and take care of it accordingly.

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