Exercise during pregnancy is a brilliant way to stay healthy, feel great and benefit from being physically active. Maintaining a regular exercise routine during pregnancy has been associated with helping keep pregnancy weight in check, enhancing body image, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, reducing backaches, bloating and leg cramps, lowering the risk of pre-eclampsia, improving psychological health, improving fetal development and preparing the mother for the demands of labor.
Being physically active before pregnancy has many advantages as you can simply strive to maintain your fitness level. Pregnancy isn’t the time to begin to set world records. With your doctor’s clearance, training at a light to moderate intensity is recommended. If you haven’t previously exercised much, that’s okay, starting slowly and gradually with a workout routine will still be beneficial. It’s a great time to establish healthy habits for both mother and baby.
During each trimester a woman’s body undergoes a tremendous amount of change. Her body weight increases and joints become more flexible due to a hormone called relaxin, so care should be taken while exercising. As pregnancy progresses, the center of gravity changes with growth of the baby and this could impact training. However, there are always options that can be taken for different exercises.
My top exercise tips for training during pregnancy are:
- Train for posture and awareness of your core throughout pregnancy.
- Train with a Swiss ball to engage pelvic floor and core. Use light resistance bands and dumbbells to help modify the movements once they become more challenging with changes in center of gravity.
- Try to move daily. Small amounts of exercise improve mood and stress levels.
- Practice pre natal yoga and pilates. This will help with preparation for labor and delivery.
- If you belong to a gym, using machine weights or cardio equipment helps maintain stability through the workout once balance gets challenging as the baby bump expands.
- If you are training with a trainer, make sure they are pregnancy qualified and always listen to your doctor and your body.
- First time mums and regular gym goers often find it hard to slow down and can get frustrated with decreased cardiovascular capacity. As your body changes so does your ability to do certain movements, but everything can be scaled and modified to suit a pregnant lady wanting to exercise.
- Keep moving, as this benefits both mother and baby.
Training intensity Guidelines:
Training intensity guidelines for cardiovascular fitness and resistance training can be measured by the ‘rate of perceived exertion’ (RPE). This is used to understand how hard a pregnant woman is working during exercise. Light to moderate intensity is generally recommended and anything between 5-7/10 RPE is considered safe.
The benefits of strength training for the pregnant mother include:
- Reduced weight gain during pregnancy, especially the second half of pregnancy.
- Weight stays within a normal range recommended by doctors during pregnancy.
- Increased energy levels encourage positive attitude and self-esteem.
- Better body image and more self-confidence.
- Decreased likelihood of varicose veins, pregnancy induced diabetes and lower back pain.
- Increased muscular strength.
- Restful sleep and less exhaustion.
- Improved posture.
- Improved digestion.
Pregnant ladies naturally becomes more efficient at cooling themselves down while exercising, so overheating at the right intensity shouldn’t be an issue. Key points to remember are:
- Drink adequate amounts of water.
- Avoid exercising outdoors in extreme heat.
- Avoid swimming in heated swimming pools as this increases core temperate and compromises the safety of the baby.
If you’re new to exercise, take your time and ease into a fitness regime that is attainable throughout pregnancy. Always get clearance from your doctor before embarking on a fitness regime while pregnant and seek the guidance of a prenatal qualified trainer.
Alana is a qualified pre and post natal exercise trainer and nutrition coach with a Bachelor of Health science degree.< Back