You’re pregnant! Congratulations! A new life is developing inside you. It’s an exciting time and there’s a lot to look forward to. But it’s exhausting too, and with all the changes happening within your body your inner voice is telling you to put your feet up. It’s time to relax and let nature take its course.
Stop! Don’t listen to it!
A healthy pregnancy relies on a balanced, nutritional diet, plenty of rest, and exercise. Yes, exercise. While you may not have the energy to put your burgeoning body through a daily workout, even a small amount of exercise is worth the hassle.
Exercise during pregnancy is beneficial in many ways. Not only does it help you to maintain a healthy weight, it’s also known to reduce stress and promote circulation. While these benefits are advantageous to everyone pregnant or not, they are potentially more valuable during pregnancy, when your body is under additional strain.
So what exercise can you do during pregnancy?
There are different guidelines for regular exercisers and those who exercise every now and again, or not at all. While exercise is as essential for both groups, what you should and shouldn’t do differs.
If you already follow a fitness program it’s safe to continue with this, provided you don’t increase the weights or repetitions too much. As your pregnancy progresses it will become harder to maintain the same program, so be prepared to make adjustments when necessary. For example, if your regime is cardio-focused, you may need to break your workout into shorter periods, or reduce your speed from a run to a brisk walk. Similarly, if your focus is strength training, you should replace the following exercises with something similar or avoid them altogether:
- Timed circuit training, or anything that involves fast movements with weights
- Weightlifting with barbells at the back of your neck
- Sit-ups with weights
- Sit-ups or any other exercises that require you to rotate your abdominals
- Kickboxing or any similar contact sport
- Exercises that require you to lie on your back for prolonged periods, particularly from 16 weeks onwards
The below tips to staying fit whilst pregnant are only suggestions. They are aimed at people who are already familiar with them and who also feel confident to continue with their training while pregnant.
Can help you develop and maintain a strong back.
This is important to support your growing breasts during pregnancy and to help maintain good alignment and posture.
The Palloff press
Is a great anti-rotational core exercise.
During pregnancy, it is important to maintain a strong core to help the body carry extra weight. The spinal alignment will change as pregnancy progresses. It’s important to focus on exercises that will encourage and promote maintaining a neutral spine and pelvis.
It is always a case of risk-to-reward when selecting exercises. You want to avoid using the Valsalva manoeuvre (holding your breath) during pregnancy as this can cause an increase in intra-abdominal pressure.
Later in the third trimester, exercises as simple as a bodyweight squat might be enough to help work a strong and stable core.
Will help promote a strong posterior chain.
This could help keep the sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine) in a more neutral position. This will mean less stress on the sacroiliac joint and pelvic floor muscles.
Steady-state, low to moderate intensity cardio can help maintain your cardiovascular fitness.
A Watt bike
Regular aerobic exercise increases the size of your placenta and also it’s capacity to exchange oxygen, CO2, nutrients and waste products to and from the baby.
During pregnancy, your heart rate may not be an accurate measure of exertion level. It is always best to go on how you feel rather than using a heart rate monitor to regress or progress your training.
When you embark on a regular exercise regime during pregnancy it’s important that you start off slowly. Begin with short periods of exercise at a low intensity and build this up gradually. Your body is adjusting to a lot of changes and exercise should be a help and not a hindrance to this.
These are some of the best forms of exercise that you can undertake when pregnant.
Walking is an excellent way to start off an exercise regime. You can schedule it to fit in with your day, and you don’t need to spend money on a gym membership or specialised equipment. Go for a walk around your neighbourhood, or head out for a stroll in your local park. If you’re still working you can even leave your car in the garage and walk to work.
Walking is a great stress-reliever, and doesn’t put undue strain on your body. You can move at a speed that suits you, and either walk with friends or by yourself. Additionally, fresh air is a natural mood-enhancer and you’re sure to end your walk feeling better than you did when you set out.
Yoga focuses on the wellbeing of both your mind and your body and is a powerful form of exercise, whether you’re pregnant or not. However, you can’t underestimate the importance of your mental wellbeing during pregnancy and this makes yoga a very popular choice.
The breathing techniques and relaxation that yoga teaches are especially valuable in the later stages of pregnancy. They help to reduce anxiety and promote better sleep leaving you refreshed and relaxed with a positive attitude.
This is a fantastic low impact form of cardio exercise, but during pregnancy the safest form of cycling is on a stationary bike. The reason for this is that the risk of you falling off or being involved in an accident is minimal. When cycling, always maintain an easy pace, and don’t overexert yourself.
Swimming is incredibly popular and one of the safest forms of exercise during pregnancy. This form of cardiovascular exercise raises your heart rate and encourages circulation, while easing away stress.
Heated pools such as those in most gyms and fitness centres provide the added benefit of the warm water relaxing your muscles and joints. This kind of exercise is recommended if you are experiencing joint pain or sciatica during pregnancy.
During this low impact, cardiovascular exercise the water supports your growing belly, relieving stress on your back. Your muscles work against the water which acts as a counter force, giving you a full workout with very little notable exertion. If you love aerobics, but find it too difficult during pregnancy, aqua aerobics is a wonderful, and safe, alternative.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Health professionals will extol the virtues of pelvic floor exercises throughout your pregnancy. Your pelvic floor consists of muscles, called the Kegel muscles that support your uterus, bladder and bowel. Your body puts an enormous amount of strain on your pelvic floor during pregnancy and natural childbirth. By strengthening these muscles, you can prevent pregnancy after-effects such as stress incontinence.
In any exercise routine you should always put your safety first. This becomes even more vital during pregnancy when it’s not just your health but your developing baby’s that you must consider.
It’s best to consult with your GP or midwife before embarking on an exercise program.
Always keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Stay hydrated
- Don’t overdo it
- Don’t allow yourself to get too hot
- When doing a class, always advise the instructor of your pregnancy
- Keep your exercise sessions short, 45 minutes is ideal
- Stop if you feel at all lightheaded
Keeping your body and mind healthy is an invaluable contribution to a hassle-free pregnancy and an easy labour. So too, is regular exercise. When managed correctly this goes a long way to promoting physical and mental wellbeing.
You may indeed be pregnant, but this is not a reason to shy away from exercise. A little goes a long way, and whether you swim 20 lengths of the gym pool, or take a brisk walk around your local park, the benefits for you and your baby are invaluable.
If you have any questions on the above or would like some advice on women’s personal fitness training or how we could help you, don’t hesitate, visit one of our personal training gyms.