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Exercise And Pregnancy
2 March 2015
Exercise And Pregnancy

If you have been coming to The Gym recently, you may be aware that we have a few Team members who are about to become Mummies for the first time! This is an exciting time for these ladies but it can be a confusing time when it comes to exercise, or more specifically, if it is safe to exercise. It wasn’t that long ago that women who were pregnant were advised to sit back, relax, eat for 2 and cut down or even avoid exercise. Today we know differently! Not only is it okay to exercise during pregnancy but it actually benefits both you and your baby.

If you are already a regular exerciser then as long as you are healthy and your pregnancy is progressing with no complications, there is no reason why you cannot continue with your current exercise routine. Provided that you have spoken to your Health Care Provider and you have been given the go-ahead. Obviously as your pregnancy progresses and you bump gets bigger your current programme would need to be modified.

If exercise was not your thing before you became pregnant, then now is not the time to begin a strenuous exercise programme. However gentle low impact exercises like walking, pregnancy yoga and swimming are great alternative options.

There are numerous benefits to exercising during your pregnancy:

  • Confidence
    Although pregnancy is a magical time for any woman, it is also a time when your body is uncontrollably changing at a rapid rate. There may be times during your pregnancy when you wonder if you will ever resemble your pre-pregnant self ever again! Exercise can increase your sense of control over your ever-changing body and will help limit non-essential weight gain. If you are feeling good about your body, you will feel more confident about your body and the magical changes that are taking place.
  • Pain relief
    Pregnancy plays havoc with your back! As your baby bump grows and expands it puts incredible strain on your back muscles, doing specific exercises that target these muscles, can help to improve your posture and reduce the risk of pain caused by weak and ineffective muscles.
  • Keeps you flowing
    Exercise helps to stimulate and accelerate the movement in your intestines helping to prevent the dreaded (but all too common) constipation and hemorrhoids.
  • Better sleep
    As your bump gets bigger and heavier, it often becomes difficult to fall into a restful sleep at night, this is because it can be difficult finding a position that both you and your baby find mutually agreeable! By exercising you can tire your body out physically and hopefully you will fall easily into a deep and restful sleep at the end of a hard day.
  • Pregnancy Glow
    If the first trimester left you looking at your pale complexion, wondering where that “pregnancy glow” that everyone talks about is, then you can rest assured that by exercising during your pregnancy you can help yourself ‘glow’.  Exercise increases the blood flow to your skin giving you a nice healthy looking complexion.
  • Prepares you for Labour
    Let’s face it! Labour is hard work, that’s why it’s called ‘labour’ and not ‘relax’. No guarantees written in stone BUT by exercising and keeping your muscles strong and your heart conditioned you can greatly improve your labour experience. Most regular exercisers experience an easier labour and a faster delivery.
    Let’s liken pregnancy and labour to running a marathon. If you decided to run a marathon the first thing that you would do would be to start training and preparing your body for the grueling 4+ hour run. You would not sit on the couch eating chocolate until race day and hope for the best! The reason you would train and prepare would be to make sure your body was in the best condition possible to complete the run. By exercising during your pregnancy and focusing on strengthening your core muscles, the major muscles in your legs and your pelvic floor muscles, you are giving your body the best chance of coping better with labour.
    Regular weight bearing exercises, where it is important to control your breathing (for example; exhaling when you return to standing in a Squat) can help you perfect breathing skills when you are in labour, being able to control your breathing can really assist with labour pain management.
    In the event of a prolonged labour, being physically fit can mean that you will not tire so easily. Some Health Care Providers recommend exercise to pregnant woman as it can help reduce your risk of pregnancy complications like Pre-Eclampsia and Gestational Diabetes.
  • Regain your Pre-pregnancy body
    This is what most pregnant woman want! If you regularly and consistently exercise during your pregnancy then you will only gain what your body and baby needs. Exercising will help you to avoid gaining any non-essential fat and what you do gain will be more easily lost in the weeks after birth, leaving you feeling better about your body and more confident.
  • Better for your baby
    There are many listed benefits for the babies whose mummies exercise during their pregnancy, they range from; being born naturally leaner and therefore at a lower risk of developing obesity in later life, to improved brain development due to an increase in oxygen to the placenta while the mother exercises. The main thing to remember is that exercising during pregnancy is a win-win situation where both parties gain numerous benefits!

Things to avoid:

  • After the 1st trimester, avoid exercises that place you flat on your back. When lying on your back the weight of your baby bump puts pressure on the main blood vessel that takes blood back to your heart and can leave you feeling faint and/or light headed. It is still important to continue conditioning your core muscles and pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy. You can do this and avoid being on your back by doing pelvic tilts and gentle tummy tightening exercise during the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Sitting on a swiss/fit ball also helps to tone and condition your core muscles.
  • During pregnancy Mother Nature gives ladies a helping hand and releases the hormone Relaxin, this is the hormone responsible for loosening the pelvis in preparation for labour.  However Relaxin is not isolated to the pelvic area only and unfortunately lubricates all the joints in your body. Help prevent injury by paying close attention to your body during stretches or flexibility movements. You will find that you have increased flexibility, where before you might have struggled to touch your toes, you find you can now reach much further, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! Take care, don’t over stretch and listen to your body!
  • It is especially important during pregnancy that you do not become overheated. So be sensible, dress accordingly for the weather. Layers are great as you can strip off as you warm up. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercising and avoid exercising outdoors on hot humid days.
  • Avoid exercising to exhaustion. A good rule of thumb is you should be able to maintain a conversation while you are working out, if you can’t then you are working too hard and you need to slow down and let your heart rate return to normal.
  • Don’t cut calories! While it is important that you don’t eat for two (you only need approx. 300 extra calories per day, and this is not until the 3rd trimester) it is important that you eat healthy. Keep your blood sugar levels balanced by having regular small meals. See your Health Care Provider for more advice on eating well during your pregnancy.

You should avoid activities where there is a high risk of falling or injury through contact:

  • Horse Riding
  • Ice hockey
  • Roller blading/roller skating
  • Cycling
  • Gymnastics
  • Netball
  • Football/Soccer

Do not exercise (without clearance from your Health Care Provider) if you have any of the following:

  • Premature ruptures of membranes (“waters breaking”)
  • You are carrying twins/triplets.
  • Early contraction
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Vaginal Bleeding
  • Pregnancy induced High Blood Pressure
  • The key is always to listen to your body and recognise that there will be days that you lack the energy to exercise – and that’s ok!