There are so many myths out there about what to do and what not to do during your pregnancy. Pregnancy is an amazing time in a woman’s life. It is also a time to take the opportunity to focus on lifestyle, exercise, and well-being. As a fitness professional I hope you discover and enjoy the benefits of exercises that suit your pregnancy and your lifestyle and I want to encourage you to focus on the big picture of long-term health and well-being for you and your baby.
Before exercising when pregnant, consult your doctor, obstetrician, or healthcare professional. You may need to modify your existing exercise program or choose a suitable new one if you were exercising very little before getting pregnant.
Keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise (sport, running, yoga, dancing, or even walking to the shops and back) for as long as you feel comfortable or until your doctor advises you to stop. If you were not active before you got pregnant, it is not the time to suddenly take up strenuous exercise. If you do start an exercise program tell the instructor that you are pregnant and begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, 3 times a week. Increase this gradually to daily 30-minute sessions.
Benefits of prenatal exercise
There are many potential health benefits for women who exercise during pregnancy. Regular exercise during pregnancy can also decrease the risk of pregnancy-related complications such as pregnancy-induced hypertension and pre-eclampsia.
Some of the benefits of regular exercise throughout your pregnancy include:
- Better weight control
- Improved mood and self-esteem
- Maintenance of fitness and muscle tone
- Improved posture
- Decrease discomforts such as backaches and fatigue
- Help prevent gestational diabetes
- Relieve stress
- Help to sleep better
- Build more stamina needed for labour and delivery
Exercise is not dangerous for your baby if you listen to your body and your doctor’s advice. There is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour. Doing regular physical activity has health benefits during pregnancy and helps to prepare the body for childbirth. However, it is important to modify or choose a suitable exercise program because pregnancy affects the body’s response to exercise.
If you were physically active before your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity in moderation. Do not try to exercise at your former level; instead, do what is most comfortable for you now. Low impact aerobics are encouraged versus high impact.
While most forms of exercise are safe, there are some exercises that involve positions and movements that may be uncomfortable or harmful for pregnant women. Activities that are generally safe during pregnancy, even for beginners, include:
cycling – outdoors or on a stationary bicycle
jogging (recommend only in early stages)
muscle strengthening exercises, including pelvic floor exercises
exercise in water (aquarobics)
yoga, stretching and other floor exercises
pregnancy exercise classes.
If you have a healthy, low risk pregnancy exercise can be very beneficial for both mother and baby. The critical thing is to only undertake exercise that are safe and at the appropriate level for your individual situation, taking into account pre-excisting fitness and stage of pregnancy.
Next weeks blog we will go into more about tips and what to be careful of when exercising while pregnant.