A Guide to Exercise During Pregnancy
You’ve announced the brilliant news that you are pregnant (congratulations!). And now, you have some questions around how you can weave your pre-pregnancy life into your new life, and exercise is a key part of this. Do you keep your exercise routine up? Should you be doing more exercise or less? And what are the safest exercises during your pregnancy?
Participating in safe, responsible and appropriate physical activity whilst pregnant can have many health benefits. Here is a short guide to answer your questions and give you some pointers towards some of the best pregnancy exercises you can uphold throughout your pregnancy. It is vital to speak to your health care provider before exercising when pregnant.
What is the best type of exercise during pregnancy?
Aerobic exercise –defined as “physical activity that stimulates a person’s breathing and circulation” –can help improve or maintain physical fitness. The Department of Health UK recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity throughout the week. As a general guide, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise; if you become breathless you are probably exercising too strenuously. The key is not to exhaust yourself.
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
Regular physical activity can contribute to good health by helping with weight management and contribute to an improvement in fitness, sleep and mood. It can also help you cope with labour and get back in to shape after labour. Find out more information about the benefits of exercise during pregnancy here.
The best exercises to do during pregnancy
It’s important to do something you enjoy so that you are motivated to keep it up, especially when you are feeling tired as no doubt you can be, particularly in the first and third trimesters. Examples of aerobic classes you can consider are, swimming, dancing, walking; aqua aerobics and a stationary bike. If attending an aerobics class always inform your instructor that you are pregnant, or you may prefer to check out classes specifically for pregnancy. Remember exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.
Continuing your exercise routine with care
Keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise (sport, running, yoga, dancing or even walking to the shop and back) for as long as you feel comfortable. If you do not currently exercise regularly, it’s not too late to start some form of aerobic exercise to improve your fitness. Always start slowly and gradually with 10-minute bouts of moderate intensity continuous exercise building up to a total of 150 minutes a week. Swimming and brisk walking can be a good place to start.
Safe exercise during pregnancy
Some tips to exercise safely during pregnancy are: always warm up and cool down afterwards, don’t get over-heated, stay hydrated, and rest if you need to. Listen to your body. If you feel uncomfortable stop and seek advice. Avoid extreme twists and sudden, fast changes of direction as this may wrench vulnerable muscles and ligaments. Avoid straining your back and ensure you have support available when performing stretches and balance exercises. For aerobic classes, ensure you keep one foot on the floor and do not perform high kicks, jumps or leaps as this places strain on your body. After 16 weeks, do not exercise whilst lying on your back, a major blood vessel can become squashed by your growing baby in this position. Do not attempt any vigorous exercise that could cause physical injury.
Modifications to your current exercise routine
You may need to modify your exercise routine to accommodate your growing bump. You may be unable to do certain activities due to discomfort or you may become too hot or breathless following your usual routine. Don’t push your body too hard and exercise so long as you feel comfortable.
If you have any underlying medical conditions or pregnancy complications check with your midwife or doctor before embarking on an exercise routine.
Kramer MS, McDonald SW (2010) Aerobic exercise for women during pregnancy (review). Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews 2006, Issue 3, Art. No. CD000180 Available from: www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com (accessed 13.02.19)
Department of Health (2017) Physical activity for pregnant women. Available from: www.gov.uk (accessed 13.02.19)
Hardy M (2017) Pregnancy and Physical Activity. Available from: www.patient.info (accessed 13.02.19)