So I am putting my Personal Training hat on today to provide you with the answers to the questions that are so frequently asked around exercising and pregnancy.
It tends to be that once we’ve got past the sickness and feeling low in energy, it’s at that point we decide we want to exercise, but then immediately hit a roadblock of what we can/cannot do. This results in us then deciding not to get started after all as that may well be safer, but as we all know, staying fit and active during your pregnancy not only helps with things like weight gain, mood and pregnancy symptoms but also with labour and recovery too.
It goes without saying that you must check with your midwife/doctor that it is safe for you to exercise before starting a new programme, and if you are taking part in a class you should inform the instructor before starting that you are pregnant.
What are the benefits?
Whilst many well-wishers may tell you that it is a good idea to put your feet up whilst you are pregnant to get the rest in while you can, providing your pregnancy does not hold any complications, being active can actually have huge benefits:
- It can help manage stress and anxiety
- It can aid with any pregnancy symptoms such as swollen legs and feet.
- It can provide a source of energy to relieve the tiredness experienced during pregnancy.
- It can boost your mood due to the release of the hormones called endorphins.
- It allows you to have some “me time”.
- It can help improve your fitness.
- It can keep weight gain in control.
How can it improve my labour and recovery?
So I mentioned that exercising can aid the symptoms of pregnancy, but it is also a huge factor in how we deal with labour and recovery after.
Labour can very be seen much like interval training in the fitness world: There are intense periods of work (contractions/pushing), followed by periods of ‘rest’ (I say that very lightly, as I am certain that no woman would tell you they felt like they were resting in labour). The fitter you are the easier you will be able to recover from those intense work periods, and more ready you will feel to go again after the rest period. It will also give you the endurance to keep going for longer too (I know I appreciated this myself after 29 hours in labour).
Now whilst recovery is certainly not about bouncing back as quickly as you can, it is of huge benefit if your body is in good physical condition as you will find the natural healing process happens much easier than if you aren’t. Going in to motherhood is obviously going to bring a new level of tiredness, but if you can approach labour being as fit and healthy as possible, this will hopefully help you to recover quicker from this phase, to then enter your fourth trimester with your baby.
What is safe for me to do?
Generally speaking, if you were exercising before you fell pregnant it is safe to continue to do the activity that you were doing before (minus the exercises you need to avoid below). However, if you have not been active but feel that this is the time you’d like to start then you absolutely can. The key here is to go slowly and increase gradually, and I would advise seeking professional guidance through a trainer or class if you wanted to participate in certain activities such as gym work, yoga etc.
However, exercising does not mean that you have to be working hard in a gym or some form of structured session, it is all about being active. So anything that increases your heart rate is fantastic to do during pregnancy, this could be walking, swimming or dancing around the kitchen to your favourite tunes (which your baby may even appreciate too).
What exercises do I need to avoid?
Generally speaking, being active and exercising during pregnancy is a hugely beneficial thing for yourself and your baby, but there are factors that should be considered to ensure that you stay safe:
- Avoid any contact activities that could involve your bump being hit such as rugby, hockey etc.
- Avoid any exercises that involve you lying on your back after 16 weeks as this can cause low blood pressure and dizziness as well as the weight of the baby putting pressure on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart.
- Avoid any exercises that may result in you falling such as horse riding.
- Activities such as hot yoga should be avoided due to overheating.
- It is important to listen to your body when exercising during pregnancy, so if anything feels uncomfortable then stop it immediately. You will find that as you move throughout your pregnancy, certain movements may start to feel more uncomfortable because of the size of your bump for example, so it is advised to stop these at this point.
- Avoid any advanced abdominal exercises such as full sit ups.
- Avoid any exercises that work on balance: The body produces a lot more of the hormone Relaxin during pregnancy as a way to prepare for the birth of your baby, this can make the joints very unstable, therefore, anything that challenges your balance is not recommended.
You’re ready to go
So there you have it, all the information to the key questions we tend to ask around exercising and pregnancy. My recommendation from here would be to decide on the type of activity you’d like to participate in, schedule this in to your week so it becomes part of your routine, and most importantly … Enjoy it! I know that can be a strong word when it comes to exercise, and many of my clients laugh at me when I suggest this, but by seeing this as time for you and your baby is such a lovely approach to staying active during your pregnancy.
Stay safe, stay fit, stay active