Many pregnant women are concerned about the safety of outdoor cycling. While there are some risks associated with cycling during pregnancy, it is a safe and healthy activity for most women. In this post, we will explore the risks and benefits of outdoor cycling during pregnancy so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to cycle while pregnant.
6 Risks of cycling during pregnancy:
- Increased risk of falling
As your center of gravity changes during pregnancy, you may feel less stable on the bike, making it easier to fall. Studies show that pregnant cyclists were more likely to fall off their bikes than non-pregnant cyclists. As well as the obvious risk of injury from falling, there is also a risk of crashing your bike into someone else.
- Increased risk of musculoskeletal problems (saddle sores, lower back pain)
Lower limb swelling and numbness in the hands and feet can make it harder to balance on the bike and control the handlebars. Pregnancy hormones cause softening and relaxation of the ligaments and joints. The combination of effects increases your risk of musculoskeletal problems such as saddle sores and lower back pain.
- Decreased aerobic capacity
During pregnancy, there is a gradual reduction in maximal aerobic capacity and an increase in the relative exercise intensity required to produce a given heart rate. These changes mean that you cannot ride as far or as fast as before. Some women find it harder to recover from hard rides and may need more rest days.
- Increased energy requirements
As your baby grows, you will need more energy. Your recommended daily calorie intake may increase by up to 300 calories per day. Some pregnant women find themselves snacking more often during long bike rides. If you are trying to lose weight, be aware that it is now even harder to do this.
- Increased risk of overheating
Increased body temperature is a risk factor for neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. All pregnant women are advised to avoid overheating during exercise outdoors. This is especially important in hot conditions and/or when exercising at high intensity.
In the second and third trimester, your baby is surrounded by a fluid-filled membrane called the amniotic sac. This helps to keep your baby at a constant temperature. Do not worry too much about overheating during low-level exercise in cool conditions. If it feels uncomfortably hot, then slow down or stop cycling.
- Decreased oxygen in the blood
During pregnancy, your body is working harder to circulate blood around your extra volume. All pregnant women have a reduced oxygen saturation in their blood when they exercise outdoors. If you have a history of heart disease, then this may increase your risk of heart problems during exercise. In which case, you should consult your doctor before embarking on any exercise program.
6 Benefits of outdoor cycling during pregnancy:
Cycling is a wonderful exercise for pregnant women, and it provides numerous health benefits to the expecting mother, her unborn baby and after childbirth too. Cycling helps in weight loss and shapes up your bottom and thigh muscles. The resistance created while biking gives strength to our legs, making them stronger. Most importantly, it enhances blood flow to different body parts and keeps the pelvic region active, thus preventing complications like hemorrhoids. So here are 8 benefits of cycling during pregnancy:
- Prevents Pre – Eclampsia:
Pre-eclampsia is a condition in pregnant women which arises when there is a sudden increase in blood pressure, protein in urine and swelling in the face, hands and legs. It happens when the blood supply to the placenta reduces, thus depriving your baby of food and oxygen. Cycling regularly releases endorphins in the body, which relaxes our muscles and keeps our stress levels down too. This is beneficial for pregnant women as it dispels pre-eclampsia by relaxing their uterine muscles.
- Increases flexibility:
Cycling not only tones up legs and bottom muscles but also increases the flexibility of our body, making us more agile and active during labor as well as post-delivery. The expectant mother should be a little careful in the last trimester when the baby is growing more, and their body has to bear its weight.
- Prevents hemorrhoids:
Pregnant women have to put up with a lot of symptoms like bowel movement, constipation and hemorrhoids during pregnancy which can get especially painful post-delivery. Cycling helps in keeping all these symptoms at bay as it improves the blood flow not only to the pelvic region but also towards other body parts, including legs, thighs and back area. This prevents hemorrhoids during pregnancy and post-delivery too.
- Prevents leg cramps:
Leg cramps are most common among pregnant women, especially those who sit for long hours and stand all day at work. Cycling provides strength to the leg muscles and gives relief from those cramps. Also, it relaxes your thigh muscles which might tighten due to cramps during pregnancy as well as post-delivery.
- Provides respiratory benefits:
Pregnant women generally suffer from shortness of breath, phlegm, bronchitis etc., due to blood flow changes during pregnancy. Cycling provides respiratory benefits as the expectant mother can breathe more deeply, bringing in more oxygen for both her and her unborn baby. This way, it keeps your lungs healthy during this period of life.
- Prevents Gestational Diabetes:
This is a medical condition that develops during pregnancy due to hormonal changes in the body preventing the expectant mother from utilizing blood glucose properly. In such cases, the expectant mothers have to take care of their diet and keep track of the carbohydrate intake so as to maintain their health and that of their unborn baby. Cycling helps in preventing this by increasing insulin production, thus maintaining sugar levels and providing relief from bad mood swings and lethargy too common in pregnant women.
Though cycling has many benefits for pregnant women, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with this type of exercise. For instance, cycling can cause accidents if you are not careful. It is also important to consult your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program when you are pregnant in order to ensure that you and your baby remain safe and healthy. That said, if you take the necessary precautions, cycling can be a great way to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy.