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Do's and don'ts when exercising in pregnancy

 

Were you ever told by your ‘helpful’ aunt/grandma/mother-in-law (insert what appropriate) to stop moving during pregnancy and basically lay in bed with your feet up?  Have you ever frantically googled what exercises are good for you and your growing baby? Maybe you are fitness fanatic (like me) but wondered if you should continue when expecting?
As a pre-natal personal trainer/coach  I am guided by the latest health research and information, so I can take away all the guesswork and provide safe guides and programmes during this special time.
Have a look at some top-level guidelines, that may help you on your journey. 

1. Pregnant ladies are encouraged to exercise

In the last couple of decades attitudes towards exercise during pregnancy have changed significantly. The latest guidelines suggest that regular, moderate intensity physical activity provides health benefits during pregnancy as much as they did prior to their pregnancy. 150min a week of moderate activity (walk, jog, swim, gardening) is recommended for a normal pregnancy

2. Strengthening of pelvic floor and abdominal muscles should become part of the fitness routine

Widely understood ‘core’ undergoes the biggest changes during the pregnancy. This can have negative consequences during later stages of pregnancy and after birth. By introducing so called ‘kegel’ exercises and specifically modified abdominal muscles exercises can prevent stress incontinence (leaking urine), abdominal separation (or diastasis recti, ‘doming’), having the mummy tummy or ‘pooch’ and reduction of back and pelvic pain.

3. The fitness routine should be adjusted depending on the pre-pregnancy fitness level, stage of pregnancy and any symptoms on the day.

Generally speaking a lady who is used to certain activity (like running, spinning, aerobics) can continue that for quite some time. However, if you are new to exercise you need to start gradually and not exert yourself. You should be able to maintain a conversation when exercising, which is equivalent of around 40-60% of your maximum effort (for healthy and low risk lady)
 
Don’ts

1. You should avoid certain activities
Activities that are overly vigorous and have a high potential for falling or abdominal trauma should be avoided. Additionally, exercises that involve a high degree of balance and agility are not recommended, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy when changes in a woman’s centre of gravity put her at an increased risk of falling (water sports, skiing, horse riding, gymnastics, diving, rock climbing, contact sports like rugby, football, karate etc)

2. Laying on your back for prolonged time

You probably heard about not sleeping on your back after 20 weeks and the same apply to exercise. This is because in the middle of your back there is main artery called vena cava, which supplies oxygen to your heart and placenta. If the blood flow slows down, you may get dizzy, light headed or faint.
 
3. High impact exercises should be modified

Activities that create pressure on ‘down there’ but as well on your joints should be modified to low impact. Your growing baby puts a lot of pressure already on your pelvic floor. If you add a high impact exercise on top of that, it may contribute to pelvic pain, incontinence or further complications. So avoid jumping jacks, high knee runs, burpees, frog jumps, leg thrusts etc.
 
4. Modify your stretching routine

During pregnancy , a hormone relaxin circulates through our body, to prepare our joints (mostly around pelvis, core) to stretch in order to accommodate the growing baby. This means all joints can stretch beyond the safety point. So improving your flexibility (e.g. doing splits) should wait for a while. Only maintenance stretches should be performed (15-20sec holds).  This as well applies to the breastfeeding period, as relaxin is still present then.