(Written by Elena White) Pregnancy is not a good excuse to ditch your trainers and lounge around. It is in fact, a good reason to keep fit and even build awareness about the food you eat, what it contains and how it benefits (or perhaps does not) your baby and yourself. But let’s take a look at some important aspects of exercise and how best to keep active during those nine months of pregnancy.
It makes sense to begin by stating that exercise does not necessarily mean hard-core, exhausting work outs. First and foremost, your body will dictate just how much exercise you can or cannot take. Do you seriously think that in your eighth month you will be able to walk as fast as in your second? You need to listen to your body and be sensitive to its needs. Do not over exert yourself. Whilst pregnant and exercising, always ensure breathing is not too difficult and that you are not panting away. Can you hold a conversation whilst exercising? This is a good rule of thumb to follow. If you cannot talk and exercise at the same time, you are obviously going too fast. In terms of duration, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes daily.
Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines
Whatever type of activity you decide to undertake, always consult your doctor or midwife.
- Can I keep to my usual exercise routine?
Whether you can keep to your usual work out, even in your early months when your mobility will be less affected by the weight of the baby, depends very much on the type of exercise or sport we are talking about. You must keep in mind that you are carrying a baby and despite the above rule we mentioned about breathing and exercise, you need to remember that you want to keep away from any risky sports. This means that any sport that could result in a fall or a collision with another person is best avoided. The consequences could be rather tragic; it could endanger your life and that of the baby.
- Activities to avoid, even if leisurely, include:
Cycling, horse riding, skiing, gymnastics, football, rugby, tennis and even water sports such as waterskiing (although you might think that water is a good surface to fall on, its high surface tension actually can make it pretty hard). Activities that involve body twisting and hopping or skipping you should also avoid.
- What exercises can I do when pregnant?
There are several safe and beneficial exercising whilst pregnant which include, for example, swimming. We have already mentioned the water has a certain property which makes it “tense” and which thus, helps people carry out movements more easily in it by supporting the movement itself. Remember that warming up and cooling down are important.
If you are not really keen on sport, pregnancy is a good time to begin that daily brisk walk. It will help improve your heart, breathing and circulation. Make sure to wear the right shoes and also to protect your skin and eyes on sunny days.
Other good exercises to undertake are exercises that stimulate and work your chest and abdominal muscles. Stronger back and stronger abdominals will make it easier to carry the added weight as pregnancy weeks pass. You will put less strain on your back and get less tired.
- What about post-partum exercise?
Ideally you should keep exercising even after pregnancy. For those mothers who have limited or given up any sports during their pregnancy, resuming their pre-pregnancy exercise routine or sports is absolutely fine. However, it would be sensible to work things back into your lifestyle gradually rather than abruptly. Your body will still be changing and returning to is pre-pregnancy state once you have given birth and this will take about 6 weeks and moreover, your stamina will have decreased and hence, you will need to gradually build it once more. When breast feeding, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also suggests feeding or expressing milk prior to starting your exercise in order to lighten the breasts[i] (see end note for further guidelines by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists).
[i] Artal, R. , Toole, M O., (2003), Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 37 (pp.6–12). Available online [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1724598/pdf/v037p00006.pdf ]