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For some reason exercising during pregnancy seems to be a contentious and misunderstood topic with one research paper suggesting that even 60% of doctors are getting it wrong! Over the last few decades we have gone from seeing pregnant women as vulnerable and delicate with a great need to ‘take it easy’ to increasingly recognising the long term health implications of exercise during pregnancy. So, in this guest article written by one of our expert board advisors specialist pre and post natal trainer Natalie Ferris we look at the common misconceptions and what you need to know about exercise during your pregnancy:
One of the biggest questions I get asked is whether or not it is safe to exercise during pregnancy – usually there is a simple answer:
Firstly you have to consider what type of exercise you were doing before getting pregnant, but, in most cases (as long as you are not experiencing complications), exercise is not only safe but beneficial too. Exercise is great for general health and wellness, but also for counteracting some of the less appealing pregnancy related discomforts that come with the territory. Not only that, it helps prepare you for one of the biggest physical challenges you’re likely to face: labour.
So, what are some of the benefits?
While it is not the time for weight loss, there are so many benefits to exercising while pregnant. Keeping active and blood flowing can help:
back pain, bloating and swelling
to potentially prevent gestational diabetes
digestion which can get sluggish during pregnancy thanks to the hormone Relaxin (which relaxes muscles including those in your digestive tract)
Improve posture (which is often knocked off during pregnancy)
Sleep (which can be more challenging especially towards latter stages)
your ability to cope with labour
Your ability to get back in to shape after the baby is born
Click here if you want to nerd out on more of the science/hard facts around pregnancy and exercise.
How do I know if exercise is safe for me during pregnancy?
Usually, the first place to start is whether or not you were active before your pregnancy. If you were and you do not have any complications or health conditions then it is likely safe to remain active, as long as it is comfortable.
If you are new to exercise it is best to talk to your doctor before getting started but I would recommend brisk walking and low impact exercises such as pre-natal yoga (although wait until the start of your second trimester for this – particularly if you have never done it before), these are usually safe for everyone.
If you are active already, what type of exercise is safe?
Some exercises may need to be adapted to make way for your growing bump and it’s very important not to exercise to exhaustion. With my clients I will always start with an assessment of current physical condition before I decide on the exercises I will use. However, typically, I always try to focus on keeping the core (particularly the transverse abdominal muscles) strong.
Maintaining good posture is also essential throughout pregnancy so I will work on the glutes and posterior chain to make sure the lower back doesn’t compensate for the extra weight. Keeping the pelvic area and hips flexible usually helps a great deal with labour positions and breathing techniques engaging core muscles are also very important.
Good exercises for that include: glute bridges, hip thrusts, squats, lunges, deadlifts, side plank and lying clams.
My top three types of exercise for pregnancy: yoga (after the first trimester), Pilates and resistance training (it is usually pretty easy to find specialist pregnancy classes and always inform your instructor at the start of the class).
Generally speaking however: if you are fit and healthy before your pregnancy you can continue on with most classes and activities that you were doing prior to pregnancy as long as you don’t push too hard or do anything that involves impact or potential impact.
What should I actively avoid?
Your baby is surrounded by fluid in the amniotic sac, which is nestled inside the uterus surrounded by organs and muscles so it creates a safe environment for development, however, there are a few things I would suggest avoiding:
Going too hard or too frequently with high impact exercise (such as HITT/circuit training or anything that will raise your heart rate too high) – take it easy.
Exercising in hot, humid weather (if your body temperature gets too high it can cause fainting)
Holding your breath
Any movement that involves twisting of the waist
Crunches and heavy work on the abdominals
Holding stretches for too long
Starting a new type of exercise you have never tried without proper expert supervision
A couple of other things to be mindful of:
There are many changes your body goes through during pregnancy. Your joints are more flexible due to hormones which cause muscles to be more relaxed and your centre of gravity shift affects your hips and balance given the extra weight of your bump in front. I am very careful not to let my clients hold deep stretches too long or lock out their joints (ie. knees and elbows) when performing exercises using resistance.
As your baby grows and the size of your bump increases, exercises on the back are not recommended because the weight of your uterus puts pressure on a major vein: the vena cava, which can reduce blood flow to your heart and brain, making you dizzy, short of breath, or nauseated.
As long as you stick to the basics, exercise during pregnancy is individual to the person, choose the exercises that make you feel great and de-stressed as you enjoy the journey! Having a personal trainer who is qualified in Pre and Post Natal exercise to guide you through can also help you to feel more confident, safe and supported.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.
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