Exercise in Pregnancy
Ever wondered about the benefits vs risks of exercise during pregnancy?
This blog is written by Sheila Bond, a Chartered Physiotherapist with a particular expertise in helping pregnant women reduce the aches and pains of pregnancy and new mothers to get back to full fitness as quickly as possible. She runs regular Fit for Pregnancy and Fit For Life workshops at The Wellbeing Centre and also sees clients privately.
Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?
I am often asked by pregnant ladies ‘Should I exercise while I am pregnant’ and ‘What is the right kind of exercise? First of all, it is important to say that this advice is aimed at healthy people experiencing a normal, low-risk pregnancy. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, or are already experiencing back or pelvic pain, it is important that you get individual advice from a Chartered Physiotherapist, or other suitably qualified health professional.
Why should I exercise during pregnancy?
Exercise during pregnancy has lots of benefits and may even help to:
- decrease the risk of developing gestational diabetes
- you to sleep better
- prevent or reduce back and pelvic pain
- support the bladder and bowel
- improve your balance and co-ordination
- increase your sense of wellbeing
- prepare you for labour
- recover more quickly after the birth of your baby
How often should I exercise while I’m pregnant?
As a general rule, you should aim to do about 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week. By moderate intensity, we mean that you should be able to carry on a conversation at the same time as you are exercising. By most days of the week, we suggest a maximum of 5 days, as rest days are also important. Pregnancy is not a time where it is generally advised to look at increasing your fitness levels, but more at maintaining your level of fitness as your body changes shape.
What exercises are the safest during pregnancy?
Generally low-impact exercise is recommended in pregnancy. If you are already a runner, then it may be safe to continue but it is not advisable to take up running for the first time while you are pregnant. If you are used to running prior to becoming pregnant, then it is safe to continue to run during your pregnancy up until 25-30 weeks but always listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard!
Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, swimming and cycling are great ways of maintaining fitness levels. Pilates-based exercises using a gym ball are a good way of improving your core muscle strength. Low impact aerobics, aqua-natal, swimming, gym (with care), dancing and pregnancy yoga are examples of suitable exercise. Always tell the instructor you are pregnant.
Contact sports such as skiing, netball and horse riding should be avoided due to their risks in harming the baby.
What else should I know before exercising?
To fully benefit from exercise you need to know how to exercise safely in pregnancy. It is important not to exercise too much and potentially harm the baby or overstretch muscles which are struggling to adapt to the growing baby.
Throughout any type of exercise you should listen to your body and stop if it feels uncomfortable.
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