By Lisa Westlake

 

The do’s and don’ts of exercising during pregnancy

 

Pregnancy is, potentially, one of the most exciting and joyous times of your life.

 

Sensible and appropriate prenatal exercise has numerous physical and emotional benefits. Whether you have been enjoying regular gym workouts and classes or you have decided that now is the time to start thinking fitness… here are some guidelines to help you look after your baby and your body while you work out.

 

The right exercise can assist prenatal fitness, preparation for labour, healthy body weight, emotional and physical adjustment, and post natal recovery. 

It is important to acknowledge the physiological changes and their implications on exercise, in order to understand what exercise is right for you and recognise when and how you should adjust to suit your individual needs.  

 

The most important thing to remember is that the well-being of mother and baby must come before all other goals.  If you are already exercising you may need to throw out a few favourites and pick up some important pregnancy specifics. Remember it’s a short time in the big picture.

A few important tips before you start:

 

 

Appropriate exercise during pregnancy can help you 

 

Cease or avoid exercise and seek medical advice if you experience

 

Exercise contraindications

You will most likely be told to rest and avoid exercise if you have:

 

10 tips to help you stay fit and healthy throughout this special time

 

How much, how often and what type of exercise is safe and effective during pregnancy?

 

1. How often?

3 to 4 exercise sessions per week is plenty, but consider your lifestyle and listen to your body; if you are busy working or running after a toddler, there will be times when your body needs to rest rather than exercise.

 

A guide for how hard you should exercise is that you should work at mild to moderate intensity. On an intensity scale of 0 to 20, you should be training at around 13, this would mean you feel like you are exercising but you are not hot, puffed or exhausted. 

 

Avoid intense exercise, even in the first trimester. Intense exercise such as running, cycling and high energy classes may cause you to overheat which could have implications on the healthy development of your baby. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

 

3.How long?

This depends on your workout intensity. It is fine to walk for an hour if you feel comfortable, but if you are working a little harder, cardio exercise for 20 to 30 minutes is ideal. Adding appropriate strength and stretching may then take you to the hour. 

 

4.What type?

Low impact, non-contact exercise is best. This is because not only do you want to avoid overheating – for your baby’s safety – but you also need to avoid jolting and jarring to protect your joints and pelvic floor. Certain pregnancy hormones make your joints more vulnerable to aches and injury, so keep it low impact, and make sure your exercise technique is always smooth and controlled. Replace running, jumping and extreme range of movements with controlled moves and focus on your form. 

 

5. Muscle conditioning

If you are used to strength programs you can continue, and if you are new to exercise then using light weights are fine, provided you adhere to the following guidelines:

 

 

6. Invest in your future look after your pelvic floor

Looking after your pelvic floor is an investment in your future. Minimise the risk of problems with bladder and wind control by avoiding:

 

7. All about abs

It is natural and necessary that your abs will stretch during pregnancy. Now is not the time for curls and crunches.  Even in the early days, loads of ab curls will increase the chance of rectus diastasis, or abdominal separation.  Lying on your back after 16 to 18 weeks is not recommended as the position may compromise blood flow to the uterus and your baby. Instead focus on core abdominal exercises to help support your spine and pelvis.

 

You can work your deepest abdominals, transverse abdominus right up to the day you deliver and soon after.  Focusing on these core muscles is great for your back and will help you get your abs back later. Sit or stand tall, checking that your shoulders are relaxed and your natural lumbar curve is present. Place one hand on your baby below your naval.  Gently draw in under your hand to lightly hug your baby towards your lower back.   Avoid sucking in above your waist and be sure to breath easily.  Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Doing this on your hands and knees and then raising one arm forward is a  great way to keep your abs strong. Sitting on a Swissball is another option.

 

9. Perfect posture

Check your posture during exercise and everyday activities. Lengthen your neck, relax your shoulders gently back and down and visualise a long tall spine. Check your lower back has the natural arch, no more. Avoid the common sway back of pregnancy as it will only give you back ache.

 

10. Stretching

Stretching gently is fine during pregnancy but keep within comfortable range of movement and leave out anything that causes discomfort

 

Remember, R & R matters!

It is critical that you take time out to enjoy time with your baby. Afterall, if there’s ever a time your deserve to relax, it’s now. Lie or sit with your feet up for 30 minutes or more every day.  Constantly being on your feet can be tough on your veins, pelvic floor, pelvic joints and lower back. Use the time to practice relaxation techniques; they may come in handy during labour or early motherhood.