Exercise during pregnancy is strongly encouraged as it is so beneficial to both mother and baby. The benefits to the mother include reduced risk of gestational diabetes, improved control over aches and pains, lower maternal weight gain and overall improved mood and emotional wellbeing. The benefits to the baby include improved oxygen and blood flow to help with healthy growth and heart development.
Now many women are fearful when they first fall pregnant about what is safe and what isn’t during pregnancy. This can sometimes mean that they stop exercising, for fear of doing the wrong thing.
The best and safest exercises during pregnancy are:
-Pregnancy water classes
-Light strength training
Things to avoid during pregnancy are any sport or activity that places you and your baby at high risk of injury ie. contact sports or horse riding.
Now it is important to be able to monitor your exercise intensity whilst working out to ensure you are staying within safe guidelines.
Monitoring your intensity
The best way to monitor is to do the “huff and puff” test. This test suggests that you should be able to talk but not sing whilst exercising. If you can’t hold a conversation…slow down! However don’t be scared of huffing and puffing, it is OK to do so as long as you can talk.
Monitor your temperature. If exercising in hotter weather, wear light clothing, stay hydrated and pop a fan on if indoors. If outdoors, try to exercise in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day. It can be dangerous for the baby if your core temperature is too elevated so a little bit of heat and perspiration is OK, but you shouldn’t be soaking in sweat!
Signs that you should stop exercise and consult with your healthcare professional include chest pain, dizziness, incontinence, vaginal heaviness, back or pelvic pain or changes in your babies movements.
OK.. now that we know what to do, what not to do and how hard to work.. how often should we work out?
The American College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week (30 minutes, 5 days/week). It is recommended to do a combination of aerobic and resistance training.
If you weren’t exercising before you fell pregnant, it is completely safe to start a new exercise program provided that you are medically fit and your doctor has approved it.
If you were exercising prior to falling pregnant, you can continue with the same exercise routine provided it isn’t a high risk activity. Most women will naturally reduce their intensity when they fall pregnant, particularly in the first trimester as they battle fatigue and nausea.
Be guided by your body. If you don’t feel right, then back off and reduce your exercise load until you feel better. It is safe to continue running and lifting weights during pregnancy, however you need to be mindful of not overloading the pelvic floor. I suggest to my clients to stop running by the 3rd trimester (at the latest) to rest their pelvic floor, and to reduce their weights as their pregnancy progresses.
Now once the nausea and fatigue have passed, and you’re feeling up to doing some gentle movement.. get out there and produce those happy endorphins and get your pregnancy glow on girl!