Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercise does a lot to keep you healthy and some of those benefits are also true for pregnant women.

Exercise will:

  • reduce blood pressure
  • decrease cardiovascular risks like the formation of clots
  • help to maintain an ideal body weight
  • help to manage stable diabetes

Additional benefits specific to pregnant women include:

  • Improving the labor process and delivery. “Pregnant women who exercise have shorter labor times, and faster, easier deliveries.”
  • Exercise can also improve self-esteem and high self-esteem has been associated with a decrease in complaints of back aches, headaches, and fatigue.
  • Exercising women will also be more conditioned for difficult breathing.

Exercise continued after delivery will help to decrease varicose veins, leg cramps, and swelling in the limbs.

A fundamental function of exercise is promoting blood flow to deliver nutrients to where they are needed and eliminating stored toxins. The metabolism of calcium will also be improved. It will ultimately lead to healthier organs, stronger connective tissue, and denser bones.

There are a lot of changes that occur to the women’s physiology in pregnancy and this warrants safety considerations for the mother and the baby. Over-stepping the limitations in pregnancy can divert blood flow away from the growing baby to provide more to the mother’s exercising muscles. This could deprive the baby of oxygen and stunt his/her growth and put the baby in distress. Exercising conservatively can appease the additional risks of membrane rupture, placental separation, premature labor, direct fetal injury, or umbilical cord entanglement. With due caution and consideration, effects on the fetus by maternal exercise does not contraindicate exercise.

These are the 7 safety guidelines:

1. Heart rate needs to be less than 140 beats per minute

2. Exercise intensity should be low. You should be able to speak during the exercise without your breath becoming rapid.

3. Do not perform strenuous exercise for more than 15 minutes

4. Starting at 5 months pregnant, avoid exercising on your back

5. Avoid exercises in which you hold your breath and strain

6. Be sure that you are eating enough to meet the needs of the pregnancy and of the exercise.

7. Core temperature should not exceed 38 degrees Celsius/100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not overheat yourself.

You should stop the exercise immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • back pain
  • feeling disoriented
  • extreme nausea
  • marked swelling
  • pubic pain
  • sharp pain in the abdomen or chest
  • feeling extremely hot, cold, or clammy
  • uterine contractions
  • any vaginal bleeding or gush or fluid from the vagina
  • decrease in fetal movement
  • blurry vision
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • difficulty in walking
  • shortness of breath
  • pain or palpitations

If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, have had more than three miscarriages, or are pregnant with more than one baby, you should not exercise at all during pregnancy. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, then you should consult your doctor about exercise first.

Exercise recommendations for pregnancy:

  • Jogging. This is recommended if the mother jogged regularly before pregnancy.
  • Walking. A safe option because it does not involve jerky movements while still helping to condition the cardiovascular system. A good brisk walk for half an hour three times a week will ensure that you are getting the benefits of exercise. Your cardiovascular system will be strengthened when worked for at least fifteen minutes.
  • Cycling. This can be started during pregnancy because it is not a weight-bearing activity. A stationary bike is safer.
  • Aerobics. Avoid exercises that require you to be on your back, include jerky or bouncy movements, and deep flexion and extension after the 4th month of pregnancy. Low impact aerobics is tolerated well in the third trimester. Ballroom dancing or aerobic dance are great aerobic exercises.
  • Swimming. A great option. Avoid excessively cold or hot water though. Water aerobics is another option rather than swimming laps.
  • Weight lifting. Light weights can be used to maintain strength as long as you are breathing properly. No holding your breath and straining. Perform with caution. If unaccustomed to this exercise, begin with just resistance against gravity first.
 Racquetball, squash and tennis are fairly safe. Adjust the intensity of play as the pregnancy progresses.
  • Scuba diving. For experienced divers only. Do not exceed 1 ATM in pressure and limit the time to 30 minutes or less.
  • Yoga. Great for relaxation. Also helps to maintain muscle tone and flexibility. Best when accompanied by some form of aerobic exercise. Do not try to do the same amount as before you were pregnant.

A variety of exercise will prevent imbalance by overworking the same muscle groups and will ensure that all muscles get a turn.

Remember: Your cardiovascular system will be strengthened if worked at least three times a week for a minimum of fifteen minutes.

Exercises to Avoid:

  • All contact sports
  • Gymnastics
  • Horseback riding
  • Water skiing
  • Ice skating

Any exercise program should begin with a five-minute warm-up and aerobic programs should end with a five-minute cool-down exercise. The cool-down should include light stretching and relaxation exercises. This will help to prevent muscle stiffness after exercise and will help in bringing the heart rate and body temperature back to normal. All exercises should be performed on both sides.

Here are some exercises that are performed in the standing position that can be used to warm up or cool down:

  • Shoulder rolling. To loosen the neck and shoulder muscles, bring your shoulders up to your ears, back and down again. Perform six times.
  • Arm swinging. To release shoulder stiffness, increase circulation, and stretch your upper back, swing your arms from side to side by turning your upper body.
  • Knee raising. To loosen the knees and pelvic joints and gently massage your internal organs, bring each knee in turn up toward your chest and hold for two seconds.

Exercises for the neck and upper back:

  • Sit comfortably with your legs crossed. Slowly bring your head to the end of every position and hold for ten seconds at each position. That is, down to your chest, then back to look up at the ceiling, look over each shoulder and finally drop your head down to each shoulder. Repeat three times. This will relieve tension in the neck and upper back.
  • Cat stretch. Come to your hands and knees and keep a straight back. Round your back and look toward your knees. Then relax to a flat back and look toward the ceiling. Repeat five times.
  • Dog stretch. Keep your hands and heels on the floor and push your buttocks toward the ceiling. Repeat two times. This should not be performed beyond the first trimester.

Exercises for the lower back and legs:

  • Butterfly. Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to relax out to the sides. Gently bring your knees up and down. Then with your knees down, slowly come forward and attempt to touch your feet with your head. Slowly come back up and breathe. Repeat three times.
  • Bridge. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your hands on the floor at your sides. Slowly raise your pelvis and lift your buttocks and lower part of your back off the floor. Hold for ten seconds. Then slowly come back down, bringing your buttocks down last. Repeat three times.
  • Alternate leg stretch. In a seated position, spread your legs apart. Bring one foot to the inside of the opposite thigh. Face the outstretched leg and slowly bring your head to your knee and stretch your arms forward. Do not strain or bounce. Slowly come up and repeat on the other side. Do this twice.
  • Squat. Squat down with feet flat on the floor, palms together in front of the chest and elbows pressing against the knees. Hold for 20 seconds while breathing normally. Then sit back on your buttocks and relax your legs. Repeat once. Work up to holding the squat for one minute.

Abdominal Exercises:

  • Sit-ups. In a seated position, have your knees bent with your arms extended over your knees. Slowly roll back one vertebra at a time until the shoulders recline. Then sit up. Repeat three times and work up to repeat ten times.
  • Alternate Leg Raise. Lay down and put your hands beneath your low back. Without straining, bring your leg up toward your head and hold for 20 seconds with normal breathing. Then lower your leg slowly while exhaling. Repeat with the opposite leg. If you have lower back discomfort or pain, bend the opposite leg with your foot on the floor. Repeat three times on each side.
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises
 The pelvic floor supports the bladder, uterus, and rectum. These supporting muscles can be strained during pregnancy and child birth. Kegel exercises work these muscles and can be done at any time. Practice stopping your urine flow midstream during each urination. Once you have mastered the urine stoppage midstream, you will know how to contract the muscles anytime not just during urination.

Reference: Pediatric Chiropractic. Anrig, Plaugher. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 1998
ISBN 10: 0683001361 / ISBN 13: 9780683001365.

Cardiovascular Health

What is the role of the cardiovascular system?


The cardiovascular system consists of the heart, blood, and blood vessels (veins, arteries, arterioles and capillaries).  The cardiovascular system is responsible for circulating blood throughout the body providing oxygenation, homeostasis, regulation, protection and waste removal.  Pulmonary circulation carries blood between the heart and lungs while systemic circulation delivers oxygenated blood to the entire body.


How does the cardiovascular system work?


The heart acts as a pumping system that forces blood into the lungs (pulmonary system) and the body (systemic system) so that oxygen, waste removal and regulation all occur.  The pump forces blood into the lungs and out into the rest of the system. The arteries deliver oxygenated blood to the body as the pump action of the heart forces the blood into the arterioles and capillaries that are located in our extremities.  The veins then return the deoxygenated blood and blood that has picked up waste to the liver and the lungs to be filtered and reoxygenated.


What should I know about the heart?


The heart is about the size of a clenched fist, weighs about 300g and in most people lies on the left side of the chest.  It is composed of four chambers: the right and left atrium, and right and left ventricles that work together as a pump to distribute blood throughout the body.  The heart beats about 60-80 times per minute. This is often measured in your doctor’s office and is referred to as resting heart rate.   Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure at which the heart pumps as well as the elasticity of the arteries that it is pumped into.  It is essential to have good blood pressure to ensure that your body receives adequate blood supply. It is also important to know that high blood pressure can damage the vessels.


What should I know about blood pressure?


Blood pressure is measured in a doctor’s office by a sphygmomanometer

which measures both the systolic and diastolic pressure.  The top number is the systolic pressure (a measurement of the blood being pumped from the heart into the blood vessels) and is the highest pressure in the vessels.  The bottom number is the diastolic pressure (a measurement of blood filling the heart between heartbeats) and is the lowest pressure in your vessels.  Medical “normal” blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg, yet most doctors won’t show great concern if your blood pressure is 140/85 unless kidney failure, heart disease and liver failure are a concern.  It is common for the top number to fluctuate. Even going to the doctor’s office can cause an increase in the systolic pressure of about 10 mmHg.   If blood pressure is too low (below 105/65), a person may experience dizziness or fainting. Doctors will also look for at least 30 mmHg between the systolic and diastolic pressure. Less than that is a suggestion that the heart is no longer a strong enough pump.


How does cholesterol impact cardiovascular health?


The common thought has been that high cholesterol is bad because it causes a build-up of plaque in the blood vessels that impacts the heart’s ability to pump effectively. However, about 50% of patients who suffered a heart attack actually had normal cholesterol levels.  Further research has been done on both HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein) which determined it is not the cholesterol but more likely the particle carrier and the density of the lipoprotein sub-types that determine a person’s risk of heart disease.  The National Cholesterol Education Program outlines the following to determine a more accurate cardiovascular risk:


  • Small, Dense Ldl: these atherogenic particles are easily oxidized and penetrate the   arterial endothelium to form plaque
  • Lp(A):this small, dense LDL is involved in thrombosis
  • RLP (Remnant Lipoprotein): is very atherogenic, has a similar composition and density of plaque, is believed to be a building block of plaque and does not need to be oxidized like other LDL particles
  • Hdl2B:positively correlates with heart health because it is an indicator of how well excess lipids are removed


By performing a Lipoprotein Particle Profile in our office, we can more accurately determine true risk.


The last fact about cholesterol to consider is that women in menopause and men in andropause will have an increase in cholesterol due to reduced hormone production while the liver continues to produce the same amount of cholesterol. This can be addressed by balancing hormones.


What are the red flags of heart disease that should encourage me to see a doctor?


  • Family history of high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • High body mass index (BMI 30 or greater)
  • Stressful lifestyle
  • Out of breath when walking up stairs or from your car to a grocery store
  • Sweaty and red-faced after activities you used to do without a problem
  • Chest pain
  • Changes in your heart beat
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Low urinary output
  • Constant weakness and fatigue with normal daily activities


How can I prevent heart disease?


  • Reduce stress.  Change the hours you spend at work, even if you can’t change jobs.  Take vacations and actually rest.  Remove unwanted actives from your schedule and don’t apologize for taking care of yourself.
  • Reduce weight.  If you need to lose 50 pounds or more, consider small changes like portion control long before you actually modify what you eat.  Start exercising gradually. Exercising long and hard right away can actually put strain on a heart that is already under strain.
  • Sleep. Those who regularly sleep six or fewer hours a night are typically heavier than those who regularly sleep more than six hours. Sleep reduces our stress hormones, but it also helps us lose weight and live better.  And guess what?  Those that rested properly scored higher on creativity and productivity tests –something any boss can appreciate.
  • Vegetables.  They are higher in fiber and are packed with more vitamins and nutrients than any other food.  Veggies give you the biggest bang for your buck.
  • Exercise. Besides being a great way to shed a few pounds, exercise also reduces stress, oxygenates blood and removes waste. Walking just 20 minutes a day can lower stress hormones and drastically reduce negative inflammatory waste which is a main culprit of muscle pain.


If I’m at risk and showing signs of heart disease is medication my only answer?


Depending on your blood work results, angiogram, or EKG, it may be a good time to start working with botanical medicine before you need the more side-effect causing pharmaceuticals. If you are already on medication, botanicals can be supportive enough to allow you to reduce the drug amount or even go off of them completely.  We will always make sure that botanicals do not negatively effect any medications you are on. Common botanical treatment options include:


  • Fish oil – high dosage
  • Hawthorn – appropriate dosage
  • Hormone testing and balancing to affect cholesterol or blood pressure
  • Adrenal or stress hormone testing as it plays a large role in heart disease
  • Herbal blend for cholesterol and blood pressure – tested on many patients and shown effective in our office and on our own family members.
  • Blood sugar regulation –pre-diabetic blood sugar levels often contribute to heart disease.

Creating New Year Resolutions You Can Keep


How many of us kick-off the New Year with a resolution list that looks like this? I’m going to lose 10 pounds. I’m going to the gym every day. I’m going to control my temper.  I’m going to cook healthy meals for my family every night. I’m going to learn Chinese.

Result?  Epic failure.

Creating inflexible resolutions that require tremendous change in your lifestyle are doomed and can quickly lead you to feeling like a failure in the gloomy days of winter. Instead, create resolutions that are broad, flexible and attainable. You’ll face winter with a sense of confidence and empowerment as you realize that you are on the road to success.

Start by examining the following elements in your life and then create a resolution around it making sure to be broad, flexible and attainable! We’re giving you some ideas for each.

Physical Well Being

  • Schedule all your necessary health screenings for the year and don’t forget the ones you’ve been putting off (like colonoscopies!).
  • Examine your diet and make small changes like switching to lower fat milk, cutting out caffeine except for your morning cup of tea or coffee, or eating healthy fish for dinner once a week.
  • Instead of working out for weight loss, think about moving for your health. Buy a pedometer and increase the amount of steps you take every day.

Intellectual Well Being

  • If you’re an avid fiction reader choose a non-fiction book for a change. If you love magazines, buy a copy of The New Yorker for a fast intellectual rush.
  • Get together with a friend and tackle a doable new craft or hobby. Start simple. The process of learning anything stimulates your sense of intellection well being.
  • If you like movies, watch a documentary with friends or family.  Find one that’s a bit controversial and then enjoy a spirited conversation afterwards.

Emotional Well Being

  • Instead of trying to create huge changes in your emotional behavior, instead identify the stressors or situations that set you off. Then you can avoid those situations or create a plan to better deal with them.
  • Set your personal and professional boundaries and learn to simply say, “No”. Resolve to say “No” when appropriate without guilt or second thoughts.
  • Set aside a day of the week or time of day to recharge your emotional batteries.

Spiritual Well Being

  • Resolve to take the occasional minutes you have free in your life to be “in the moment”.
  • Give to others in a way that allows you to give freely. If time is short or you have financial concerns, think about the power of a random act of kindness.
  • Practice or learn about meditation.

Social Well Being

  • Cut your Facebook time in half and use the time for personal contact with real friends.
  • If your social calendar is overwhelming, schedule one weekend or weekend day a month for a little down time.
  • Schedule a regular get-together with your buddies and add it to your calendar in ink, not in pencil!

Occupational Well Being

  • If you aren’t happy in your job take a small step by learning about a new career and then volunteering in the field or taking a class.
  • Update your resume. It will remind you how terrific you are!
  • Occupational well being doesn’t always mean paid work. Finding volunteer opportunities you enjoy can add skill sets to your resume!

2013 is just around the corner. The staff at in-Health wishes you a new year full of accomplished resolutions!