You’d have to be living under a rock to not be aware that exercise is an integral part of leading an active and healthy life. Regular exercise can help to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and reduce the risk of various lifestyle diseases including diabetes.
However, whether exercise is a normal part of your everyday routine or something you are looking to add into your lifestyle you may be finding yourself feeling confused and concerned about what activities are safe for you to perform throughout your pregnancy.
For healthy pregnant and postpartum women, exercise is a safe and important part of the pregnancy journey that contributes to overall health and wellbeing. The current recommendations during pregnancy are at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week, which equals roughly 30 minutes 5 times per week.
You may also be surprised to know that women who are already engaging in high intensity aerobic activity prior to their pregnancy can safely continue their routine throughout their pregnancy provided there are no complications during the pregnancy and that they consult with their healthcare professional in each trimester to adjust their exercises as needed.
Is it necessary?
Pregnancy is an exciting stage in a woman’s life, but if we are honest it can also be draining at times! So, you may find yourself asking if exercise during this crazy time is really worth it.
There are several health benefits* associated with physical activity during pregnancy. Some of these include:
- Decreased overall weight gain during pregnancy
- Decreased risk of Gestational Diabetes
- Decreased caesarean and assisted/instrumental vaginal deliveries
- Decreased post-delivery recovery time
- Helps to prevent preeclampsia
- Exercise during pregnancy can also lead to improved sleep, less lower back pain, less nausea and heartburn, better bowel habits, more energy, as well as decreased stress and anxiety.
But first, a quick visit to your GP.
If you have any concerns about what exercises are safe for you to perform or questions about exercise and your general health during pregnancy than a visit to your GP can help provide some clarity. This is especially important if you have any pre-existing health conditions, such as those that affect your heart or lungs.
Where do I begin?
Moderate intensity aerobic exercise is a safe place to begin when looking to increase your physical activity while pregnant. The following are safe to begin or continue while pregnant (for non-complicated pregnancies) :
30 Minutes of Aerobic Exercise: This can include walking, swimming or stationary cycling
Modified Yoga or Pilates
(avoid prolonged lying down or head down for longer than 5mins)
Gentle Strength Training:
a. Bridging: Lie on your back with your feet and knees together. Raise your bottom up like you are creating a bridge with your body. Pause, and then slowly lower.
b. Tummy Tucks: Begin on your hands and knees or leaning over a table and completely relax your tummy. Tighten your tummy to gently draw your belly bottom towards your spine. Do not allow your back to move or hold your breath. Hold for 10 seconds and then gently relax
a. Buttocks Stretch: While sitting on the edge of a chair, gently cross one leg over the other. Using your opposite hand, pull your knee towards your opposite shoulder. You should feel a gentle stretch in your buttocks.
b. Hamstring Stretch: While sitting on the edge of your chair, extend your leg in front of you with your toes pointing towards the ceiling. Gentle lean forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.
c. Mid Back “Cat” Stretch: Begin on your hands and knees or leaning over a table. Gently lift/arch the middle of your back up towards the ceiling to feel a stretch in your back.
While pregnant, it is safer to avoid the following:
- Contact sports such as hockey or soccer
- Scuba Diving
- Sky Diving
- “Hot Yoga” or “Hot Pilates”
When to stop?
It is important when exercising while pregnant that you still listen to your body, and if at any time you feel any pain, discomfort or warning signs that you stop exercising immediately.
Ensure that you remain well hydrated when exercising and that you have eaten prior to exercise as this can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels. Allow yourself to stop and rest when you become tired and fatigued. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to maintain a conversation while exercising.
What about during the later stages of pregnancy?
As your baby grows in size and weight, the exercises that you are able to safely and comfortably perform will change. It is important that you cease any exercise that causes pain/discomfort or excessive fatigue. You may also want to avoid high impact exercises such as jumping that will increase the pressure inside your abdomen and place a higher strain on your lower back.
For more detailed advice about which exercises are safe and appropriate for you throughout your pregnancy, feel free to pop in for a chat with one of our physiotherapists at The Healthy Body Company!
*You can follow all the advice and do everything you have been told and still require an assisted delivery or experience one of these complications in your pregnancy. Do not ever feel bad as a consequence of these things. Focus on your baby and being a happy healthy mum, that’s the best thing you can do.