What I can tell you is that exercise is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy and will benefit you in many great ways.
Here is a list of reported and potential benefits and huge advantages over women who do not exercise or choose to remove exercise during pregnancy:
- You glow from the improved circulation and health benefits
- May be at lower risk for preeclampsia (the No. 1 cause of premature birth)
- May avoid prenatal depression especially if you exercise outdoors
- Feel more in control of your body during pregnancy
- Gain less weight while still staying within the healthy weight-gain range
- Much more energy than non exercisers, and less “bad days”
- Deliver a fitter baby
- Develop greater flexibility post-pregnancy with appropriate and careful stretching during pregnancy
- Research has shown you are up to 4 times less likely to need C-section, 75% less likely to need a forceps delivery, 55% less likely to have an episiotomy.
- Better body image than those who don’t exercise
- Labour may be shorter
- May experience less leg swelling and better blood flow
- Labour and delivery may be easier due to stronger abs and a fit cardiovascular system
- Lower your gestational diabetes risk by as much as 27% and if you do develop it i.e. because genetics and age, exercise may help prevent or delay your need for insulin or other medications
- Better moods through out the pregnancy
- Less back pain! Especially during the second half of pregnancy
- Less likely to get constipated especially if you include a high fibre diet
- Give your child greater fitness potential and a healthier heart
- Bounce back faster after delivery
- Greater sense of confidence and well being
- If you smoke, exercise may help you kick the habit
- May sleep better during your pregnancy
- You look better
- Your child may grow up smarter.
Plus all the benefits of exercise that are otherwise reported!!
Wow.. Why would anyone choose not to exercise when the benefits to you and your new- born are so wide!
So the question becomes what kind of exercise should I do?
This will depend on what you have been doing before becoming pregnant..
If you are not used to exercise, you should not suddenly jump into a new routine that you are unaccustomed to. For you, walking would be a good start followed by some light (easy) resistance exercises. Make sure you consult your doctor before starting a new regime and if you want to add something you are not used to (with the exception of plain walking), get good advice from a qualified exercise physiologist who understands the particular needs of pregnancy (see my tips at the end of this article for more guidelines).
If you are used to exercising, it is generally okay to continue at your current level whilst avoiding any progressions (maintenance is the key here). However, again get your doctor to give you clearance first.
As pregnancy progresses, you will need to change your approach accordingly. This includes not exercising in the supine position after the first trimester (i.e. do not lie on your back to do sit ups). As your body shape changes obviously you will need to amend your routine accordingly. This might be a good time to add swimming or non- weight bearing activity as your main focus and reduce high impact stuff or awkward body positions.
Here are some key points to consider for you and your trainer or health professional:
- Monitor intensity – use the talk test (you should be able to hold a conversation thus reducing what we call anaerobic exercise). to ensure you are not exercising too vigorously; or wear a heart rate monitor with appropriate adjustments for your pregnancy.
- Ensure good heat dissipation – avoid exercising in hot or humid conditions. Your ability to keep cool will be somewhat compromised so wear clothing that will allow your body to stay cool.
- Drink extra fluids (especially in hot climate or if you sweat).
- Change your routine as your body shape changes i.e. avoiding the risk of injury.
- If you have a history of miscarriage or previous complications take extra precaution and work closely with your doctor and pregnancy fitness specialist. This is especially important during the first trimester where I would advise you to keep your exercise to something you are both used to and can do at a light, moderate intensity.
- Make sure you know the complications to look out for associated with pregnancy. If any of these symptoms occur, seek medical advice as soon as possible (see below).
Some Exercise Recommendations include:
- Firstly you can go for regular ie daily light activity such as walks, cycling, swimming.
- Water or non weight bearing exercise during 2-3rd trimester: reduces strain on joints.
- Appropriate resistance training: Increases muscle tone and strength*.
- Prenatal Pilates and Yoga: Increases strength, stamina and relaxation*
* Be sure to get good professional advice from a well qualified professional who is familiar with the scope and contraindications of exercise and pregnancy
List of complications to be aware of:
There are several absolute and relative contraindications to exercise during pregnancy and I cover them in detail in my special report for exercising during and post-pregnancy. Your doctor should hopefully also be aware of many of these so you should both consult your doctor prior to starting exercise and keep them informed of anything unusual.
Here is a list of conditions that will require you to stop exercising and check with your doctor:
- pain or bleeding
- dizziness or fainting
- pubic pain
- back pain
- rapid heart rates
- shortness of breath / difficulty in walking
For more detailed information (suitable for fitness professionals, health care professionals and anyone wanting detailed knowledge on this subject – email me for a comprehensive special report (£29).