Exercise During Pregnancy
Women who usually exercise question whether they could maintain their routine. Women who have never exercised before wonder if they should start doing something to help them stay fit and healthy during this special time.
Holmes Place fitness expert Liz Andrews said:
“Exercising when pregnant is safe and has many benefits for both mother and baby, if mom is healthy and there are no pregnancy complications.
“If a mother is physically active before pregnancy she should be able to continue exercising as she did before (with small changes where necessary) as long as she is comfortable and has her doctor's approval.
“Exercising can help make a woman stronger and help prepare her for labour and delivery, which is hugely beneficial as it can shorten labour time, reduce risk of gestational diabetes, reduce back pain, reduce constipation and speed up recovery after delivery.
“It is also a great way to improve your posture with the additional weight gain and decrease backache and general fatigue.”
Even though there are many benefits, there are some important caveats to bear in mind, moderation being one of them.
Liz explained: “It is recommended that a pregnant woman does 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Sports such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling, and jogging and low intensity aerobics are perfect.
“It is recommended that she choose exercises that support and stretch her back, pelvis and thighs and help her keep a strong posture. Exercise should help her keep her pelvic joints flexible, increase blood flow to her lower body and make her more comfortable when it comes to delivery.
“A pregnant woman should choose exercises where her body does not get too hot and where she does not need to hold her breath. Stretching is beneficial to release tension and calm the mind. Neck and shoulder rotations, arm and leg stretches, wrist and ankle rotations can all help release unnecessary tension in the body,” she concluded.
To be avoided:
- High intensity impact sports that involve sudden changes in direction
- Exercise that requires jumping, bouncing, knee-bends, sit-ups or rotations
- Exercising in extreme conditions (at high altitude or in deep water)
- Weight-bearing exercise is important although heavy weights should be avoided
- Women who lift weights should modify their programmes with a fitness professional
- Heavy smokers and sedentary women are not advised to exercise at all when pregnant
- Similarly, women with medical issues (heart disease, diabetes, asthma) should not exercise during pregnancy.
Prepare your body for exercise:
- Stay hydrated and consume enough calories to meet extra needs (+300 kcals per day)
- Wear comfortable clothes & shoes – don’t let your body get too hot or too cold
- Don’t exercise until at least an hour after eating
- After doing floor exercises get up slowly to prevent dizziness
- Don’t choose activities that mean you have to stand for long periods of time
- Never exercise to the point of exhaustion
- Body awareness is essential to feel changes in center of gravity
- Get plenty of rest – take a rain check if you are too tired
- When you start, do a five minute warm-up, followed by a five minute stretch
- Do 15 minutes cardio exercise while controlling heart rate (140-160 beats/min)
- Finish with 5 - 10 minutes slower exercise as a cool down followed by stretching.
8 great pregnancy exercises:
- Deep breathing – great preparation for delivery
- Yoga – stretching, strengthening and calming the mind
- Pelvic thrusts – lying on back bent legs and breathing out while lifting pelvis of ground
- Squatting – contracting & releasing pelvic muscle to prepare for pregnancy
- Hip openers – deep squat, five deep breaths in squat pose
- Swimming - regulates heartbeat, keeps you fit, helps prevent injury
- Aqua aerobics – less impact to the joints
- Brisk walking – best in the fresh air if possible.
According to Liz Andrews, the bottom line is that "exercise during an uncomplicated pregnancy is beneficial".
On-going adaptations may be needed, said Liz, for example, “During the later stages of pregnancy when exercise should be limited to stretches and walking. However the most important thing is that women listen to their body and monitor their condition while exercising. Any dizziness, headache, pain, muscle weakness or contractions, exercise should be stopped and a doctor consulted,”
If you have any questions refer to your Club’s experts or personal trainer, as they can help design the best solution for you. And, most importantly, don’t stop doing what makes you healthy and happy.