04 Mar Exercising During Pregnancy
There are many benefits in maintaining your fitness during pregnancy, let us break it down for you.
Women can engage in regular, mild to moderate levels of exercise during pregnancy, and there are many potential benefits, including:
• Improved aerobic capacity.
• Maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight.
• Increased energy levels.
• Faster recovery from labour.
• Improved supply of oxygen to the foetus.
• Preventing problems such as haemorrhoids, fluid retention and varicose veins.
• Increased muscle strength and tone, which can lessen back and labour pain.
• Improved blood-sugar-level control and reduced risk of gestational diabetes.
• Improved sleep.
• Improved wellbeing and confidence.
• Reduced risk of preterm birth.
However, it is recommended women consult their health practitioner before starting any type of exercise program. If you are looking to start exercising while pregnant, I would suggest waiting until at least 14 weeks’ gestation, obtaining medical consent and starting slowly.
If you have been exercising regularly before becoming pregnant, there is no need to change your current regime completely.
Just ensure you listen to your body.
There are many safe types of exercise during pregnancy and after giving birth, including aerobic exercise and resistance training.
Aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling and swimming, has low impact on the joints, while ensuring you get your heart rate up for cardiovascular benefits.
Walking for 30 minutes every day is a safe and helpful exercise throughout pregnancy.
Swimming is best for the later stages, because it is a non-weight-bearing environment. Many women also choose low-level exercise such as yoga and Pilates, which focus on breathing and strengthening the pelvic region.
If you want to keep ‘toned’ during pregnancy and regain your pre-pregnancy body shape better after birth, you can try resistance exercise.
Resistance exercise includes using weights or resistance bands, push-ups and squats. However it is recommended a professional such as an exercise physiologist develop your program to ensure it is tailored to your individual needs.
If you have morning sickness or fatigue, you may need to change the time of day you exercise, or alter your exercise regime – perhaps by lowering the intensity or doing more cardio and fewer resistance exercises. Great gentle methods for early pregnancy if you are experiencing fatigue are Pilates or yoga.
Exercising Safely While Pregnant
Things you need to do and be aware of when exercising during pregnancy include:
• Drinking plenty of fluids.
• Not overheating your body.
• Keeping your heart rate below 140 bpm to avoid overheating or causing cardiac distress to your baby.
• Avoiding contact sports and exercises that jar the joints and body, such as jogging.
If you experience bleeding or pain while exercising, stop immediately and seek medical attention.
Exercise After Baby
If you want to regain your pre-pregnancy body shape and weight, I suggest you wait until after you have had your six-week post-birth check-up and discuss your intentions with your health practitioner before starting any exercise regime.
Note: This article provides general health information and in no way constitutes medical advice. Ideas and information expressed may not be suitable for everyone. Readers wishing to obtain medical advice should contact their own doctor.
Merendi Leverett is an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP) with Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA), and mother to eight-year-old twin boys and a five-year-old daughter.
Words by Merendi Leverett