So you’ve been working out for a while and are now entering an exciting phase of your life carrying a new life within you, or, you have been dormant with your exercise activity for a while and this phase of your life now signals a time to improve your lifestyle and prepare for their new physical responsibilities ahead.
Moderate physical activity has major health benefits during pregnancy. Regular exercise is preferable to intermittent activity and 30minute or more of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week is recommended. (Bauman, 1997).
Research now indicates that a more personalised approach should be adopted when working out whist pregnant depending on what each woman is experiencing during her pregnancy.
Each trimester may bring with it a variety of feelings and developments in your body.
For example, during the first trimester, you may find you are feeling more fatigued, nauseous and generally sleepy/tired. Throughout this time you should listen to your body and workout less frequently and shorter durations and only if you are feeling well. For these reasons H.I.I.T. (High Intensity Interval Training) may not be the most optimal form of exercising during this period. For my clients I prefer a light strength training type program during this time.
In your second trimester, you will probably start to feel more energetic and should find that you can return to a more frequent pattern with your training and can workout for longer periods. If you have been training with weights and your pregnancy is progressing well you can continue doing so. If you have not now could still be a good time to start before you consider a more intense and demanding metabolic workout.
As your belly blossoms and you enter the third trimester, the shift in the centre of your body’s gravity can throw off your coordination and balance. Pregnancy also produces the hormone relaxin, which softens the ligaments in preparation for birth, however increasing the risk of injury whist exercising. So after week 28, steer clear of activities like jumping, bouncing or changing direction suddenly, as well as any activities where you might fall such as skiing and horse riding or gymnastics. You may start to feel a bit more fatigued once again, and you may start to notice that you need to workout a little less frequent to allow for plenty of recovery time between workouts. Your weight training can continue, however, once again exercises will need tweaking to accommodate for the bump and avoid un-necessary strain on the pelvic floor region.
Exercising during pregnancy provides many benefits for the mum-to-be. These include increased endurance, improved posture, helps prevent gestational diabetes, reduces physical discomforts associated with pregnancy, increases sense of well being, less fatigue, improved muscle tone, improved body image, active phase of labour is shorter, less forceps and caesarean births and physically fit women recover more quickly after birth.
What factors would exclude me from exercising?
Do not exercise if any of the following are present:
- Pregnancy induced hypertension
- Ruptured membranes
- Incompetent cervix
- Vaginal bleeding
- Intrauterine growth retardation
- A multiple pregnancy
There are a number of other medical and obstetric conditions that may lead to the need to modify or stop an exercise program. This is why it is wise to consult a midwife or doctor so they can assess the appropriateness of beginning or continuing with an exercise program in pregnancy.
My role is to offer women the guidance and support to keep their changing bodies as strong, stable, and comfortable as possible. Prenatal exercise sets them up for a speedy postpartum recovery, and gets them back to feeling strong for their new life as a Mom.
Bauman, A. (1997). Physical activity levels of Australians. Canberra: Active Australia.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 31st 2015