Whilst I have been advising woman on what exercises are appropriate during pregnancy for my entire career as a physiotherapist- it’s nice to be able to give a personal perspective now that I am 35 weeks pregnant and can appreciate some of the symptoms many of you have had to put up with.
Every woman has a different experience during pregnancy, so there is no one right answer as to what is the ideal exercise routine during pregnancy, but there are certainly guidelines which can help you decide what is the best form of exercise for your body and to prepare you for delivery and for being a mum.
How can exercise help me in pregnancy?
Doing regular exercise can help maintain a healthy body weight as well as prevent complications such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. It may also help you have a shorter labour (here’s hoping!) and increase your chances of giving birth vaginally. Being active and exercising regularly can help prevent pregnancy niggles such as back pain, pelvic pain and fatigue. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help you get back into shape after your baby is born.
What is the best exercise to do during pregnancy?
A combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training that gets your heart pumping, manages body weight by burning calories and strengthens the postural and core muscles is ideal during pregnancy. You don’t want to be pushing your body too hard as a large increase in your heart rate and core body temperature can be dangerous to your growing fetus.
Brisk walking, swimming, aqua-natal classes, pregnancy yoga and Clinical Pilates are all safe forms of exercises during pregnancy. Aim for at least 30minutes of moderate intensity activity most days of the week.
My personal choice of exercise during this pregnancy has been regular walking, lots of Clinical Pilates and preggi bellies fit-ball classes (just for laughs and something different! It’s also nice to be told what to do by someone else for a change ;))
Sports that may cause you to fall or lose your balance such as horse-riding and skiing, or contact sports such as football are not recommended. Some doctors and midwives recommend giving up road cycling. Even if you’re an experienced cyclist, there’s a danger you’ll fall or be knocked off your bike. A stationary exercise bike is, however, completely safe to use in pregnancy (but may not be tolerated if your develop pelvic pain or instability).
Most doctors will tell you that you can continue doing exercise that you were doing prior to falling pregnant (such as running) if you are used to it. Pregnancy however, isn’t the time to begin a new, vigorous or strenuous activity that your body isn’t used to. If you haven’t done regular exercise before, keep to low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming, and keep workout sessions short to begin with. Start with 15 minutes at a time and build up gradually to 30-minute sessions.
Exercise is good for you, but you shouldn’t exercise to exhaustion. As a rule, you should be able to hold a normal conversation while you’re exercising. Always listen to your body, and stop or take a rest if you feel tired. Take the time to warm up slowly before exercising, and cool down properly afterwards.
If you are used to do high intensity workouts before you became pregnant, you may need to ease off now and as your pregnancy progresses. High-impact workouts may put too much stress on your joints and pelvic floor muscles. As someone that is used to running regularly, it has been a big adjustment for me to stop running completely- but I listened to my body when it didn’t feel comfortable to run and I have found adequate ways to still get my exercise endorphins pumping 🙂
What are the signs that I should stop exercising?
Stop exercising immediately if you have any of the following:
- chest, leg, joint or stomach pain
- dizziness or feeling faint
- vaginal bleeding or leakage
- difficulty with walking
Clinical Pilates and Pregnancy
We specialise in Pilates at PMPP and it is a safe and effective form of exercise to commence and continue through pregnancy and post delivery. It is low impact so places minimal stress on your joints. Clinical Pilates focuses on your deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles- specific muscle groups that are stretched and weakened during pregnancy, but are vitally important muscles to aid an easier labour and delivery, as well as preventing back and pelvic pain and preventing complications such as urinary incontinence down the track!
It’s also important when you are pregnant, that your exercises are monitored and modified according to your stage of pregnancy and whether you have any specific aches or pains. Low back and pelvic pain are two of the most common complaints during pregnancy, and in our Pilates classes your exercises will be modified if you develop any of these conditions. Also in the later stages of your pregnancy you will start finding that exercising on your back is uncomfortable due to shortness of breath, dizziness or reflux. This is because your growing belly is pushing down on important blood vessels and decreasing the blood flow back to your heart. You’ll find exercising in standing, sitting, kneeling or on all 4’s is a lot more effective during the later stages.
The take home message is that being pregnant is not a reason to stop exercising- but rather to modify your exercise regime and to listen to your body. Look after yourself, so that you are best prepared to look after your baby post delivery!
Stay tuned for my post-natal blog in a few months time 😉