Ways to keep active while pregnant

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Ways to keep active while pregnant

If you are reading this blog post, and you are pregnant – congratulations! Your life is about to change forever, in the best possible way! Whilst there may be sacrifices along the way (wine and brie – sigh!), your fitness doesn’t need to be one of them.

Keeping up with exercise during your pregnancy can be rewarding for both you and your baby, with some of the benefits including (1):

  • Strengthening your core and pelvic floor muscles. This will prepare your body for the physical demands of carrying a baby and going through labor, as well as reduce birthing and postnatal complications.
  • Improving your energy levels and stamina
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Improving blood circulation and fluid balance
  • Assisting with managing stress and anxiety, and improving mood
  • Managing pregnancy weight gain and blood sugar levels
  • Keeping you ‘regular’ 😉

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggest that women participate in safe exercise, for at least 30 minutes at a time, on most or all days of the week during pregnancy (2). If you do not participate in regular exercise already, it is safe and recommended to start during your pregnancy, with the proper guidance. If you are a regular exerciser - that’s great! - just be aware that your body will undergo many changes, some of which may require you to modify your current workouts, or replace them with new activities.

We have listed below some changes that your body will undergo during pregnancy, and also, some safety precautions to be mindful of (1):


Changes occurring in your body during pregnancy

 

Safety precautions for exercise during pregnancy

 

Changes to your blood pressure - it can increase and decrease at certain points throughout your pregnancy

 

Avoid raising your blood pressure or heart rate too high, or exerting yourself to exhaustion. Try aiming for 75% max effort or less

 

An increase in your resting heart rate

 

Avoid raising your body temperature too high – for example, spas and saunas, or exercising to the point of heavy sweating

 

Fluctuating energy levels, impacting strength, endurance and exercise tolerance

 

Avoid lifting very heavy weights – rather, choose lower weights and perform more repetitions

 

An increase in hormones such as relaxin, which loosen ligaments and joints all over your body. The ‘sensation’ of loosening ligaments may especially noticeable in your hip joints.

 

Avoid overextending or overstretching – perform controlled stretches

 

A change in your balance, coordination and range of motion, due to your growing belly and changing body shape

 

Avoid or stop exercising if you are feeling ill, light headed, fatigued or feverish.

 

 

Your obstetrician is the first person you should speak to about planning a safe exercise program, as well as any other factors unique to you and your pregnancy. If your obstetrician has approved you for exercise, you may wish to speak with a physiotherapist or Goodlife personal trainer with pre-natal expertise, who can develop a tailored program for you. Alternatively, you may wish to experiment independently with these forms of exercise, which are generally safe for most women.

1. Walking and light jogging
Walking and jogging are excellent ways to stay fit during pregnancy, as you can easily adjust the pace, duration and intensity according to your evolving needs. Remember not to push yourself to maintain your pre-pregnancy efforts – now is not the time for achieving PB’s! Be mindful of your changing body shape and try to maintain good posture, to prevent injury. Also be mindful of how your joints are feeling, and consider a lower-impact option (i.e. cycling or swimming) if needed.

2. Cycling or spin class
Cycling is sometimes preferred by pregnant women over walking and jogging, as it is non-weight bearing, and easy on your joints. Whilst it is safe to continue riding your bike outdoors, be wary of rough terrain and steep hills, as you don’t want to fall on your precious bump! Indoor spin classes are also an option, but make sure to notify your instructor of your pregnancy. Also, try not to get swept up in the adrenaline of the class – go at your own pace – you can always dial the resistance down and stay in the saddle if you feel yourself overheating, or if your heart rate jumps too high.

3. Swimming or water aerobics
Swimming is great during pregnancy, particularly if you are suffering from aches and pains, as the water helps to support your extra weight. Also, if you’re suffering from pregnancy ‘hot flushes’, a cool swimming pool will provide some blissful relief! Both salt and chlorinated pools, whether cool or heated up to 33C, are safe for you to swim in right up until your waters break and/or you give birth (3). Choose a stroke that feels comfortable – towards the latter stages of pregnancy a butterfly stroke may be too rigorous, and breaststroke too demanding on your pelvis. Prenatal water aerobics classes are held at many swim centres, if this sparks your interest! Stay away from thermal baths and saunas at your local pool, which pose a risk of overheating. If you prefer swimming at the beach – take care not to swallow any seawater (which may contain pollutants), and stay away from areas known to have jellyfish.

4. Clinical and prenatal Pilates
Pilates is one of the best ways to prepare your body for the physical changes and demands pregnancy, birth and beyond. Specifically, your instructor can show you exercises that will improve your posture, and strengthen your pelvic floor, gluteal and deep abdominal muscles. Strengthening these muscles will help support your growing belly, protect against back pain, prevent incontinence after birth, and assist with repairing abdominal muscle separation. You may also pick up some breathing techniques to help you get through labour! Being supervised by a physiotherapist or instructor skilled in pre-natal exercise is another bonus (4). Prenatal or Yin/Hatha/Slow Yoga A personal favourite of ours - the gentle flows, deep stretches and calm breathing of Yoga can do wonders for your physical and mental wellbeing during pregnancy. Take care when choosing a class to attend, and make sure you notify your instructor of your pregnancy - as there are many forms of yoga and particular sequences/poses that may not be appropriate. For example, Bikram yoga in a heated room is not recommended, and neither is lying flat on your back for too long. Also, keep in mind that your ligaments are especially stretchy due to the hormone ‘relaxin’ – the temptation is to stretch further, but this may result in injury – especially to your hips. Stand and balance postures may also become difficult as your belly grows, so use a support if you need to (i.e. the wall, or a bar) (4).

But don’t be out off by these safety precautions - your instructor will know how to modify exercises for you, and there’s nothing more ‘nourishing’ during pregnancy than a good stretch and meditation!

 

References:

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Samantha Stuk Posted by: Samantha Stuk

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