In recent years exercising during pregnancy has been shown to give a number of benefits to mum and baby. Studies have found links between mothers who exercised and increased cognitive function in babies, quicker births and less chance of emergency Caesarian sections, to name just a few. However this doesn’t mean that pregnant women should just throw caution to the wind and sign up to every intense fitness camp in the area. Mums-to-be should listen to their bodies and adjust their workouts accordingly, so that they can enjoy exercising during pregnancy safely. To help out, we have put a list of workout tips and also what to watch out for:
When a pregnant woman’s body temperature rises by 1.5 degrees the blood moves from the uterus to the skin in order to cool off, taking nutrients away from the baby. Overheating is a concern during pregnancy and you should stay aware of how hot you are feeling. Avoid saunas, jacuzzis and exercising in hot conditions either outside or in hot stuffy rooms. Stick to air conditioned rooms if the weather is hot out.
Drink water before, during and after workouts. Dehydration can increase the chances of having contractions, and overheating so make sure you are always replenished.
A good rule for checking that you are working out at a safe intensity for you, is if you can keep talking while working out. You should be able to hold a conversation relatively comfortably while doing your exercises.
Your ligaments all loosen during pregnancy to prepare your body for the incredible task of delivering a baby. You might notice that you get much more flexible towards the end of a pregnancy which is a sign of this. It’s all the more reason to warm up before exercising during pregnancy. A warm up gets your body ready for a workout and reduces the risk of injury.
Judge the Weights
When lifting weights take care not to pull a muscle and to handle weights which are manageable for you. Now is not the time to start pushing the envelope on how much you can lift. With every exercise you do ask yourself, ‘does this feel comfortable for me?’. Only continue if the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
Avoid Certain Types of Movements
Bouncing, waist twisting movements while standing or doing intense bursts of exercise followed by periods of no activity, are all things to avoid during pregnancy. There are plenty of exercise routines that offer safer work outs and provide the same benefits.
Avoid lying on your back for long periods
Most mothers-to-be have heard this one. In the second half of pregnancy the weight of the uterus carry the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid increases. When you lie on your back the risk is that the weight of the uterus will press on a major vein, the vena cava and restrict blood supply. Avoid laying on your back for long periods of time, especially during sleep or exercise.
If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, build it up slowly
If you didn’t exercise regularly before getting pregnant, they used to tell you not to exercise at all! Nowadays this advice has been revised and mums-to-be starting workouts from scratch, are encouraged to begin very gently and build up from there. Walk regularly as a good place to start or try 10-15 minutes light exercise a day and build up slowly from there to a 30 minute session.
Stop if you feel any warning signs
You should always ask yourself if you feel comfortable during exercise. Don’t push yourself or your body to new limits when pregnant. You should stop exercising immediately and see your doctor if you experience any: vaginal bleeding, pain, dizziness, and unusual shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, chest pain, fluid leaking from the vagina, contractions or muscle cramps. If you have any symptoms not listed here when exercising during pregnancy, it’s a good idea to discuss these with your doctor.
Adapt as your body changes.
As your pregnancy progresses you will feel heavier, your balance may be affected and you may not have the stamina to do same workouts that you did before pregnancy. Know that this is ok. Don’t fight these changes but respect them and adapt your workouts accordingly. You can still get a good workout, doing one of the many exercises out there suitable for your stage of pregnancy.
Exercising during pregnancy – what to avoid completely
While there are now many aerobic and non-aerobic work-outs that mums can do safely during pregnancy, there are some that are advised to be avoided completely. They include:
Very strenuous exercise
Now is not the time to run marathons. The strain high intensity exercise puts on the body is real and can have an affect on the pregnancy. If you enjoy marathons see if these can be replaced with another, safer and less intense sport such as power walking or hikes in your area. You might discover new activities that you never knew you would enjoy before!
These are sports played with or against other people, where someone could accidentally injure you. They include kickboxing, judo, football, running, tennis and squash. It’s not worth the risk to continue these sports during pregnancy and they should be avoided.
Sports with a risk of falling
These include horse-riding, skiing, skating, gymnastics, squash and cycling. The risk is that a fall may injure the fetus and again it’s best to avoid these during the few months that you are pregnant.
High altitude exercise
Pregnant women are generally told to be cautious when travelling to a height of 2,500m or more. Exercise at high altitude can increase the risk of altitude sickness, dizziness and oxygen deprivation. If you are feeling dizzy or short of breath while travelling a high altitude area, contact your doctor immediately as it may be a sign that you are not getting enough oxygen. Exercise at such high altitudes should be avoided.
Active pregnancy tips: walk more
Get off a stop early with the bus and walk the rest of the way. Small increases in steps taken every day can go a long way.
Active pregnancy tips: take a lunch break
During your lunch break get away form the desk and go for a walk. Choose a nice route and make it your routine, or try a different route every day.
Active pregnancy tips: take the stairs
Climb the stairs instead of getting the lift. Steps are a great way to increase fitness and strength.