So your body is expanding as your baby takes up residence within you. Maybe a little too much space. If you are in your early pregnancy and having to deal with the treacherous morning sickness, where each time it feels like this is the day you’ll finally puke out your entire guts, breathe. Working out while pregnant has been proven to pack up some good benefits for you and your baby. This includes mood boosting, a decrease in many pregnancy symptoms, lower chances of developing gestational diabetes, reduced likelihood of having unplanned cesarean sections, help maintain healthy weight, reduce the length of labor, help psychological well-being and possibly even reduce depression and anxiety during the postpartum period, improve energy levels, and have a quicker postpartum recovery among many other great benefits. Your baby will also enjoy lower BMI, a fitter heart and a boost in brain health.
Basically, physical activity in all phases of life, including pregnancy is good for you. However, you will need to consult with your obstetrician-gynecologist or your maternity team who will evaluate you and advise before you embark on any exercise. For women with uncomplicated pregnancies, you will be encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during, and after birth, albeit following a few pregnancy-specific modifications.
So whether you were an exercise slacker like me or the perfect rendition of Jane Fonda before getting pregnant, you can still benefit from a little activity during your pregnancy. Since pregnancy offers for an ideal time for behavior modification and adoption of a healthy lifestyle because of increased motivation and frequent access to medical supervision, take advantage of it. Lace up those sneakers, we’ve got work to do! Let’s see some of the exercise plans that are best for you.
So, how active should I be during pregnancy?
Hold on, just before we jump the gun. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that expecting moms engage in moderate activity for 20 to 30 minutes, at least three to seven days a week throughout the pregnancy. You are advised against exercising for longer than 45 minutes in one session to prevent low blood sugar. Stick with the level of exercise you practiced before your pregnancy. If you were the more moderate type, stick with that rather than try revving it up. For the type that enjoyed a more robustly strenuous activity, you may be able to continue with this, though it’s safest to consult with your maternity team to be sure. If you didn’t have an exercise culture nor plan, worry not, start slowly and ramp up gradually. For instance try walking a few more times per week, then slowly increase the intensity and amount of time you walk. Please note that chores count as exercise too. So, 10 minutes of vacuuming, 10 minutes of scrubbing the bathroom and 10 more minutes of walking the children to school, counts towards your daily goal.
What are some of the best exercises while I’m pregnant?
An activity doesn’t have to be strenuous or in a gym to be beneficial. Every activity counts. Anything that makes you breathe faster whilst still being able to hold a conversation would be classified as moderate activity. It will be more enjoyable if it’s something you feel comfortable doing and can work into your daily routine. Please by all means do not overexert yourself as this may result in overheating which can affect the development of the baby.
Some of the low-impact exercises that you can try out include: walking, indoor cycling, low-impact aerobic classes, endurance (light to moderate) weights, elliptical and stair climbers, antenatal yoga, Pilates, swimming, group dance, just to mention a few. Avoid high impact exercises like running, skiing, scuba diving, ball sports, heavy weights, and walking at high altitude (greater than 1800m), and other activities that may result in a heavy fall. Stop exercising and seek medical advice if you feel uncomfortable or experience any unusual symptoms such as chest pain or palpitations, dizziness, painful uterine contractions, abdominal or pelvic pain, shortness of breath, and excessive fatigue.
Tips to ensure you work-out safely during pregnancy
As you get ready to get into an exercise routine, there are a few pointers that you’ll need to keep in mind for your safety:
- Warm up and cool down. Doing a warm up before your exercise reduces the chances of injury and ensures that your heart and circulation are not instantaneously taxed. An abrupt end to exercise traps blood in the muscles and reduces blood supply to other parts of your body (including your baby). Finish off slowly with a few minutes of walking and relaxation before calling it a day.
- Listen to your body and adapt. As your pregnancy progress, you will need to listen to your body and adapt your activity. If it feels good, it’s probably fine, pain or strain is not. Do not exercise to the point of exhaustion. A little sweat is good, just don’t get drenched in it. A workout should leave you feeling energized, not drained.
- Keep off your back. Never exercise on your back for more than 10 minutes. After the fourth month get off your back completely during exercise as the weight of your expanding uterus could compress blood vessels, restricting circulation.
Keep moving, stay motivated. Let your target be staying happy and healthy for you and your baby.