Yes You CAN Exercise When You’re Pregnant!
By Lucy Gornall, Health Journalist of the Year (HFMA) and personal trainer specialising in pre and post-natal fitness
So many mums to-be worry that even modest exercising whilst pregnant will cause damage to their unborn baby. When, in actual fact, there is no evidence to suggest this. You CAN exercise every day if you wish; whether it be a 10-minute walk or a 30-minute swim, government guidelines advise 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week.
New to exercise? There’s no better time to start!
Exercising whilst pregnant can help in a number of ways, from improving sleep, digestion and circulation, to helping maintain good posture and strengthening the abdominal muscles and pelvis. It can make labour easier too, as well as improve the health of your newborn.
Just make a note of the following…
Aim To Maintain
Although physical activity is encouraged, if you weren’t exercising before pregnancy, now isn’t the time to embark on a strenuous exercise program. If you plan on starting an aerobic exercise program, the NHS advise you to start with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, three times a week, increasing gradually to daily 30-minute sessions.
If you were exercising before pregnancy, great! But don’t try and hit your PBs in the gym or beat your half marathon time whilst you have a baby growing inside you. Just aim to stay fit and healthy and keep listening to your body.
Become A Yogi
Yoga can really help reduce anxiety throughout pregnancy. Pilates is also great for strengthening your tummy, back and pelvic floor muscles. Be sure to tell your pilates and/or yoga teacher that you’re pregnant so they can work with you.
Always Warm Up And Cool Down
It’s easy to skip warm ups and cool downs (we’ve all been there!) but there’s a reason they’re so important. A 5 to 10 minute warm up preps your body for the exercise it’s about to undergo; it gets the blood pumping and conditions your muscles, so you’re less prone to injury. When you’re pregnant try gentle dynamic stretches, and some light cardio such as walking.
Cooling down for 5 to 10 minutes also decreases your risk of injury and post-exercise aches.
Don’t Exhaust Yourself
The NHS states that as a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant.
You may find that you become out of breath a lot more easily whilst pregnant, even if you were fit and active before, particularly during the third trimester when your baby is getting bigger. It’s at this point that your uterus is pushing up into your diaphragm, in turn pressing onto your lungs.
Feeling breathless is normal and nothing to be worried about, but if you are concerned, let your midwife or GP know.
Let’s be honest, this is a general ‘rule’ throughout life, however during pregnancy, sweating occurs at a lower body temperature to protect your and your baby from overheating. Be sure to sip on plenty of water whilst exercising and if you feel too hot or start to feel faint, stop what you’re doing. Now more than ever is the time to listen to your body!
It’s wise to avoid exercise where there is a risk of falling such as gymnastics, horse riding and ice-skating.
You might notice your balance isn’t quite the same after month 4, so activities such as cycling might not be so easy. Opt for a stationary bike instead if you do wish to cycle.
Give Contact Sports A Miss
Keen boxer? Save this for after the birth of your baby. With contact sports such as boxing, basketball and hockey, you have a greater chance of being hit, so take care of yourself and your bump by avoiding them for now.
Avoid Heavy Lifting
But this isn’t to say that strength training during pregnancy is a bad thing. Whilst the hormone relaxin is flooding your body during this time, loosening ligaments, a low to moderate intensity strength program is safe.
Government guidelines actually state that muscle strengthening exercises, twice a week, are safe and recommended. Plus, they can often help with excessive overarching of the lower back, a common problem during pregnancy.
Just be careful, don’t over-exert yourself and you guessed it, listen to your body!
Resistance bands are a fantastic way to add resistance to your exercise if you don’t own weights.
Think About Your Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor is under a lot of strain during pregnancy and childbirth, and it’s common to suffer from bladder leaks when you sneeze or strain, or even cough. You’re not alone! However, strengthening your pelvic floor can help. Try squeezing your pelvic floor muscles 10 to 15 times a day, holding the squeeze for 5 to 10 seconds.
Wear A Supportive Sports Bra
Breasts will often get bigger during pregnancy so there’s no better time to invest in some beautiful new kit. Look for a bra that’s comfortable, doesn’t dig in, and keeps breast movement to a minimum.
You CAN Do Abdominal Work
In fact, this can often aid in a smoother labour. The key is, to do the right abdominal work. Avoid lying on your back for more than a few minutes after week 16 as it could cause low blood pressure, making you feel dizzy. An example here would be crunches. Instead, try resting your back on a Swiss ball. Modify your ab workouts and opt for exercises on your side, stood up or on all fours. Holding the plank can actually strengthen your abs and back.
From week 12 of your pregnancy, check for diastasis recti; the gap between the left and right sides of your abdominals – this might also mean you need to make some changes to your ab workouts.
When Exercise Isn’t So Safe…
See your GP before embarking on exercise if you suffer from any of the following…
- Significant heart and/or lung disease
- Incompetent cervix
- Multiple gestation as risk for premature labour
- Ruptured membranes
- Persistent vaginal bleeding
Information correct at date published. Copyright © Vitabiotics Ltd.
The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional regarding any medical condition. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of the information presented in the blog and to describe best generally accepted current practices we cannot accept any liability for errors or omissions or for any consequences from application of the information given