What Exercise is Best When Pregnant?
What sort of exercise is good to do when you’re pregnant?
Exercise is an enjoyable and important part of pregnancy. As long as your pregnancy is going along normally, it is safe and highly beneficial to exercise. If you have pregnancy or other medical complications your doctor will be able to advise you on an appropriate exercise program.
How much should you exercise?
The Obstetric Colleges worldwide encourage healthy pregnant women to do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, which is equivalent to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most if not all days of the week. If you are not used to exercise, build up gradually to this guideline.
How hard should you exercise?
During the first trimester, when the pregnancy is being established, and you may be feeling unwell and exhausted, it’s best to take it quietly and not take on strenuous forms of exercise. Low to moderate intensity exercise is best and rest is important. Walking is a good exercise option during this stage. Importantly don’t overheat, keep up your calories and drink plenty of water.
In the second trimester you can progress to moderate intensity exercise. Moderate intensity means that you feel you are working quite hard but you are able to breathe and talk easily while doing so and you are not puffed out. This is when you will be “blooming”.
In the third trimester your body will tell you to slow down the intensity but it is definitely beneficial to you and the baby to keep exercising right up to the final few weeks. Water exercise will be particularly good at this stage as it is weight relieving and protects your joints and pelvic floor.
It’s important to exercise at your own level. Women enter pregnancy with very different levels of energy, health and fitness and this will impact on the sort of exercise they can do. If you are in good health and the pregnancy is uncomplicated it’s fine to continue to exercise as previously. There will be days when you are feeling tired or even exhausted, so listen to your body and exercise or rest accordingly.
When exercising you need to feel comfortable, not overheat or sweat excessively. Have a snack prior to exercising to prevent low blood sugar levels, keep well hydrated and try to exercise in a cool environment. Exercising in the pool is great because your body doesn’t overheat and sweating doesn’t occur as long as the water temperature is below 33degC. Be careful with lifting heavy weights and avoid over-stretching as your joints may be more lax than usual due to hormone changes.
Are any sports or activities not safe?
It is usually fine to continue your normal exercise or sports routine when you become pregnant. There are only a few activities that are definitely not recommended. These are body contact sports which could result in abdominal trauma such as hockey and football, and activities where there is a risk of falling like horseback riding and downhill skiing. Scuba diving and extreme altitude activities are not appropriate during pregnancy due to a risk of circulatory disturbances compromising the oxygen supply to the baby.
What types of exercise are best?
Look for low impact exercise options especially if you are feeling any pelvic girdle joint discomfort or pelvic floor weakness (difficulty with bladder control). Ask for advice from a women’s health physiotherapist or from your doctor if you are experiencing these problems. Excellent low impact exercise options are pilates, yoga, aqua classes, walking, stationary cycling and swimming.
Prenatal exercise classes are fantastic if these are available in your area. Usually run by a health professional, the traditional exercises are modified for pregnancy so they are safe and effective. Core abdominal muscles are strengthened to minimize back pain, support the pelvic joints and help with pushing during the delivery. Pelvic floor muscle strengthening should be included also. Lying flat on your back is a no-no after 16 weeks as gravitational pressure can compromise blood flow to the placenta and this will be accounted for in a prenatal class. What’s more, prenatal classes provide a great opportunity to meet other mums-to-be.
Enjoy being active and enjoy your pregnancy!