When you are pregnant, each week brings changes to your body. In your first trimester, you will not notice many outward physical alterations, but over time your whole physique changes. Exercise can still be part of your life while pregnant, with some modifications for the safety of you and your baby. The stepper is an option for cardiovascular exercise during pregnancy.
Even though you are supposed to gain weight during pregnancy, a stepper can help you refrain from gaining excessive weight while still maintaining fitness. You may use a stepper where your feet remain in contact with the pedals at all times and you alternate pushing the pedal down with your legs. There are also stepper machines that are like climbing a revolving flight of stairs. The biggest concern with steppers is loss of balance, but the side rails make this less likely, and the machines offer a good form of exercise during pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
During your pregnancy, aim for at least three days of cardiovascular exercise each week, recommends the American College of Sports Medicine; preferably, you should have some exercise everyday. Start with as little as 15 minutes per session, gradually building to 30 minutes. Keep your intensity moderate, or monitor your heart rate and aim to keep it about 140 or fewer beats per minute. The heart rate is just a guideline, and your doctor may allow you to go slightly higher if you are fit and were an avid exerciser before pregnancy.
While exercise can be helpful during pregnancy, you still need to take precautions. Do not exercise outside when it is hot/humid or in an environment without circulating air because you can overheat, which is dangerous for the fetus. Stop exercising immediately if you feel dizzy, lightheaded or nauseated, or if you experience cramping or bleeding. See your physician before you continue or start an exercise program, especially if you have other considerations such as high blood pressure or are expecting multiples.
While the stepper is a good choice for cardio, it is not your only option. Walking, swimming, cycling and even jogging can be appropriate while pregnant. As your pregnancy progresses, you may find that the stepper is not as comfortable for you to use, so you can switch to another form of cardio. Yoga can also be good for you as long as you and your instructor understand what positions may not be appropriate while pregnant. Light resistance training can help you maintain your strength as well, and can be done two or three times per week.
- American Pregnancy Association: Fetal Development
- American Pregnancy Association: Top Recommended Exercises
- “ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription”; American College of Sports Medicine; 2010