Exercise for Pregnant Women
I am about to share with you all you need to know about exercise for pregnant women. Yes, when pregnant, the exercises you perform must be modified.
Participating in a well-designed pregnancy exercise program has numerous health benefits.
So, I also want to talk about some pregnancy exercise guidelines you should always follow.
To keep both you and baby safe!
Is Exercise during Pregnancy Recommended?
Women without complications should participate in appropriate prenatal strength-conditioning exercises. Regular exercise is what will keep you motivated and on track.
A reasonable goal should be to maintain a good fitness level throughout your pregnancy. It’s about you. It’s about baby.
I know from first hand experience just how beneficial exercise during pregnancy can be. I often hear from my clients how they were physically prepared for labour.
How they enjoyed a speedier post-baby recovery.
How they experienced less pregnancy ailments.
No studies have substantiated previous views that exercise poses risks for mother and child in a healthy pregnancy.
Is Exercising for Every Woman?
Exercise in pregnancy is recommended for women who are already active. And are experiencing a healthy pregnancy without complications.
Exercise during pregnancy is recommended for women who have never exercised before.
If you were physically inactive before getting pregnant, then you can still start now. Just be sure to join in an appropriate prenatal exercise class.
Exercise may not be recommended if you have a serious injury or health issue. The decision as to whether or not you should exercises will come down to taking your doctor’s advice.
Activities during Pregnancy
There are various ways to get fit when pregnant besides participating in an organised class, exercise program or trainer.
Let’s start with walking. Walking is a great way to get outside, get some fresh air and get fit at the same time. Brisk walking is low-impact and you can monitor your heart rate and intensity by making sure you are able to carry-on a conversation.
Unlike running, walking is not high impact.
Swimming is another favourite of mine. I teach PregAqua which is our own pregnancy water classes. Being in water has many benefits due to the buoyancy factor.
Just be sure to follow the guidelines with whatever activity you choose.
Seek Guidance before Exercising
I find some doctors are not as informed about pregnancy exercise as much as they need to be. In saying that, they can at least point you in the right direction.
Safe exercise guidelines are different depending on your medical condition and exercise experience.
You will need to be aware of the impact of exercise on yourself, your fetus and your pregnancy.
Empower yourself with the knowledge on the risks, the benefits, the recommendations and what exercises to avoid. Then you will be able to make more informed decisions.
You will know which exercises are best and which ones are safe.
Which exercises during pregnancy you must avoid and what intensity you should workout to.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
Exercising during pregnancy will improve both your physical and mental well-being.
It will also help you to attain, and maintain, a healthy pregnancy weight. This in turn will help you in returning to your pre-baby weight more quickly.
Maintaining a healthy weight also reduces the risk of developing gestational diabetes. This is more common in mothers who are overweight.
1. Helps reduce backaches.
2. Reduces bloating and eases constipation.
3. Assist in reducing swelling.
4. May help prevent, or treat, gestational diabetes.
6. Boosts energy and improves your mood.
7. Can improve your posture.
8. Increases muscle strength and also muscle tone.
9. Muscle endurance.
10. Improves sleep.
You Must Train For Pregnancy
Yes, exercise during pregnancy is recommended. But you should resist trying to achieve peak fitness or training for a sporting event.
Pregnancy is not the time to try and set new ‘person bests.’
Or push your body to the limits in terms of intensity. This as this may cause harm to you or your baby.
You should also select activities that will minimise the risk of loss of balance. That avoid high-impact movements or cause trauma to the joints and ligaments.
Abdominal Strengthening Exercises
You should avoid exercises in the supine position after approximately 16 weeks’ gestation.
Some women may experience symptomatic hypotension from compression of the vena cava. This is caused by the pregnant uterus.
Your ability to perform abdominal exercises may be impeded by diastasis recti, so listen to your body.
And take note of warning signs.
I strongly advise against doing old traditional sit-ups or planks when pregnant. There are safer ways to strengthen your core such as modified core strengthening exercises
Exercise Intensity during Pregnancy
There is an increase of 10 to 15 beats per minute in resting heart rate in pregnancy.
Many non-pregnant women use conventional heart rate target zones as a guide for intensity.
However, during pregnancy you should be able to talk while exercising.
A better guide for intensity is to use the Borg’s scale of perceived exertion. And aim for a rating of between 12 to 14.
1. Avoid activities or sports that require balance. (skiing, horseback riding, ice skating, gymnastics)
2. Follow healthy and appropriate pregnancy exercise guidelines.
3. Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Your Pregnancy Exercise Program Should INCLUDE
1. A Warm-up
Gradual warm-ups & warm-downs for circulation and avoidance of blood pooling. These should not be ballistic in nature nor should they contain high-impact movements.
2. Strength Training
Strength training with an emphasis on pregnancy specific muscles. (e.g. pelvic floor) Having stronger legs will assist you with many of the birthing positions.
Improving your overall strength will help you recover more quickly postpartum and will help to prevent lower back issues.
3. Modified Workouts
Modified strength training appropriate for pregnant women. Yoga is recommended, but many yoga positions that are safe for a non-pregnant woman are no longer safe when pregnant.
Ballistic, high-impact activities that are often used in HIIT classes must be avoided.
As is, lifting heavy weights or striving to reach new personal bests.
4. Modifications for supine & stationary standing.
(e.g. 4 point kneeling, sitting on a fit ball)
Your balance can be impacted when pregnant. And you must also avoid exercising in the supine position especially later on in pregnancy.
Flexibility training limited to a comfortable range of movement. Due to the pregnancy hormone relaxin, your joints are more subtle and susceptible to injury.
So don’t push too much.
1. Appropriate non-impact exercise styles.
2. Modified exercise programs when risk of overheating is raised.
3. Exercises that do not exacerbate pregnancy related musculoskeletal condition.
4. Relaxation and recovery.
5. Labour preparation.
6. Required rest breaks.
7. Workouts should be progressive, but not at a high intensity.
Your Pregnancy Exercise Program Should AVOID
Sudden changes of intensity and position. High impact ballistic movements. Jerky or ballistic movements – must all be avoided!
But what else should you avoid?
1. Any exercise that places significant load on the abdominals or pelvic floor.
2. Exercise intensities that make you feel hot, exhausted or excessively sweat.
3. Any exercise that involves holding your breath (valsalva manoeuvre).
4. Weight bearing activities beyond comfortable range of movement.
1. Extreme exercises in stationary standing that may increase the risk of fainting.
2. Contact activities (to minimise risk of falls and blows to the abdomen).
3. Any exercise that may cause or exacerbate any pregnancy related condition.
4. Stretching beyond comfortable range of movement.
5. Overstretching due to increased joint and ligament flexibility.
Your Past Exercise History
When pregnant, you should continue to exercise according to these prenatal exercise guidelines.
I want you to modify your exercise (intensity, type and duration). This is in accordance with the general physiological changes associated with pregnancy.
If you were previously inactive prior to getting pregnant, then you need to start at a low level.
Then progress gradually.
In the absence of any medical issues, exercise can be undertaken on most days. With consideration of variables including intensity, duration and recovery.
Your recovery days are also very important and trying to exercise every day may cause you to overexert yourself.
Every Pregnancy is Different
Every pregnancy is different. Women can develop pregnancy related issues that have exercise implications at various times.
So it is vital that you seek approval from your doctor prior to commencing any exercise program.
Keep them updated on what exercise workouts you are doing throughout your pregnancy. At some point, they may need to modify your workouts.
Or make recommendations to alter your program.
Prenatal Exercise Guidelines
Stop exercising during pregnancy if you experience:
1. Vaginal bleeding.
2. Abdominal cramps or pain.
3. Chest pain or palpitations.
4. Blurred vision.
5. Excessive shortness of breath.
6. Dizziness or feeling faint.
10. New or persistent nausea or vomiting.
11. Calf pain or swelling, or unusual muscle weakness.
12. Any kind of pain or numbness.
1. Excess fatigue after exercise.
2. Intense or new back pain.
4. Leaking of amniotic fluid.
5. Reduced movements of baby.
Duration & Frequency of Exercise
It is recommended that your exercise session duration is limited to avoid overheating.
This is why many of my pregnancy workouts consist of short, appropriate pregnancy exercises. And avoid long duration high-intensity workouts.
Every individual is different.
So please select the right length of workout according to your personal requirements and abilities.
Women, with what is considered as a low risk pregnancy, can engage in:
1. Moderate intensity exercise.
2. For 30 minutes a day.
3. 3-5 times a week.
Low risk pregnancies are those which are not otherwise constrained by medical or obstetric complications.
Exercises to Include in Your Workouts
Pregnancy Exercise 1: All Fours – Elbow to Knee
Reps: 10 each side
Exercise 2: Push-ups
Reps: 5 each side
Exercise 3: Side Plank – Elbow to Knee
Exercise 4: Side Lying Bicycles
Reps: 5 – 10 each side
Pregnancy Exercise 5: Lunge Step Back
Exercise 6: Wide Squat
Your health and well-being matters when pregnant. You need to be physically strong to carry your baby.
And participating in a regular exercise program will help you.
But you must only include pregnancy-safe exercises.
And remember your Kegel exercises!
If you are taking an in-studio class, make sure your instructor is qualified. Now is not the time to take risks.
Would like to workout in the privacy of your own home? Then you will love my online workouts.
Are You Ready to Get PregActive?