You’ve been sticking to your new year exercise and eating resolutions and are feeling and looking great, and now you find out you are pregnant! Congratulations! But what will this do to your workout routine? Pregnancy is physically demanding – regular exercise is a great way of helping your body cope with the increased demands on your joints, muscles, heart, circulation, and lungs.
Regular exercise can help reduce back pain, may improve muscle tone, reduce leg cramps, swelling and constipation and improve sleep patterns. When you exercise regularly it can help you to feel better, have more energy and tune in more to the changes happening in your body as your baby grows. It can reduce your level of fatigue, reduced anxiety, reduce pain perception, and help reduce excess (neuromuscular) tension in your body, due to the tranquillizer effect of exercise and improved fitness.
But what can you do, and what should you avoid? Here are some general exercise guidelines that you should follow if you are pregnant:
– Firstly, consult with your Medical Specialist. If you have specific problems or discomforts, discuss these to determine if you need to take any special precautions. The type and amount of exercise that you normally do will influence the advice your Medical Specialist provides.
– If you’re already active, continue your current program during the first trimester to a maximum of 30 – 40 minutes per day as tolerated. Do not start a vigorous exercise program shortly before or during pregnancy.
– If you haven’t been previously active, begin slowly with 15 minutes of low-intensity exercise and gradually increase to 30 minutes.
– During the second and third trimester, the intensity and duration should be gradually reduced.
– Be aware of how you feel, and adjust your exertion based on this and not on heart rate. You can use the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale!
– Avoid high-impact activities, contact sports, bouncing while stretching, activities with a high risk of falling, deep knee bends, full sit-ups, double leg raises and straight-leg toe touches. Pregnancy hormones soften your joints, which may increase the risk of injury during pregnancy.
– Avoid exercises where you lie on your back after the first trimester.
– Avoid exercise in high temperatures and/or high humidity.
– Focus on hydration.
– Utilize extended warm-up and cool-down periods.
– Wear a bra that fits well to support the breasts.
– Some pregnant women may benefit from a small snack prior to exercise to help avoid hypoglycemia. Carry a juice with you as you workout in case you become dizzy.
– Always lift your pelvic floor and brace your abdominal muscles when lifting and maintain good posture.
Maintaining a physically active lifestyle is a great way for you to support a healthy pregnancy. There are a number of contraindications and signs for discontinuing exercise not discussed here, that are integral aspects of a safe and effective exercise program Listen to your body!
Text by Rohan Mckenna