Maintaining fitness during pregnancy is great for you and your baby. Find out what you can do to prepare for the birth and get ready for your postpartum recovery.
Exercise during pregnancy is important for you and your baby. It helps you adapt to your changing body and better prepares you for both the birth and your recovery. A great way of structuring your exercise is to use the F.I.T.T. principle. This stands for:
- Frequency (how often)
- Intensity (how hard)
- Time (how long)
- Type (what exercise)
If you are a healthy pregnant woman with a low-risk pregnancy, the goal is to exercise for 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity. That means there’s flexibility in how you plan your workouts. You could try five times per week for 30 minutes or mix and match session length and frequency to meet the 150-minute goal. The important thing is that the schedule you choose should work for you and your commitments. Moderate intensity means you should be able to talk during exercise without becoming breathless.
The type of exercise you can do is wide and varied. However, there are some pursuits which are not good for you and your baby. Try to avoid:
- Lying on your back for extended periods of time, especially after 16 weeks.
- Exercising at altitude (above 2500m).
- Scuba diving.
- Sports involving physical contact or the risk of it (e.g. squash).
- Sports where there is risk of a fall (e.g. horse riding).
- Intense activities (e.g. lifting heavy weights or high-intensity workouts).
- Exercising in high temperatures (e.g. an overheated pool or hot yoga).
Instead, why not try some of these exercises to keep you healthy for the birth and beyond:
Walking is the perfect activity for pregnancy, especially if you don’t normally workout. It’s free, you can do it anywhere and all you really need is a pair of comfortable shoes. Try beginning with 10-minutes sessions and working up to half-an-hour. Your pace should be brisk but not fast. Remember, you should always be able to talk during exercise.
The weight of the water supports both you and your baby making swimming an ideal activity for maintaining health during pregnancy. It’s a great aerobic exercise and improves strength without putting extra stress on joints and ligaments. (Note that you may need to avoid doing breast stroke as it can cause back pain). Aqua-natal classes are popular and are an enjoyable way to meet other mums-to-be.
If you’re already a runner, there’s no need to stop during your pregnancy. The goal is to workout at a moderate intensity, so it’s important to monitor how hard you’re working and adjust your pace accordingly, even if you’re used to going a lot faster. If you don’t normally run, try walking or swimming instead.
A workout on a spin cycle is ideal for getting your heartrate up. It’s low impact so it’s better for your joints and the handlebars provide support for your upper body. If you’re participating in a class, always tell the instructor that you’re pregnant and ignore any leader boards. Go at your own speed and skip any high-intensity sections.
Lifting weights doesn’t have to be at an Olympic level. Light-to-moderate dumbbells are great for building strength and preparing your body for the weight gain of pregnancy. Let your body dictate the amount of weight used and number of repetitions. If you feel overly tired or strained then stop. If you’re a beginner, try bodyweight exercises like planks, squats and modified push-ups.
Pilates is a great style of exercise for strengthening your muscles, improving your range of motion and powering up your core. it can also help to prevent back pain which pregnant women often develop. Look out for prenatal Pilates classes as they are especially suited to the needs and demands of pregnancy.
Yoga helps to build strength, improve balance and increase range of motion. It also teaches you breathing rhythms which can help with delivery and provide some much-needed mental relaxation. Again, look out for a pregnancy-focused Yoga class as they feature modified positions which won’t put you or your baby at risk of injury. If you’re in a regular class, just let the instructor know you are pregnant. Avoid lying flat on your back after 16 weeks, hot yoga, and any pose that twists the abdomen
Whatever form of exercise you choose, remember to stop if you’re out of breath, stay hydrated and look out for any signs that the exercise may be unsuitable for you. That means monitoring for pain, uncomfortableness, or any abnormal movements from your baby. If you’re unsure in any way about the type or intensity of exercise that you’re doing please speak to your doctor.
Try integrating these great exercises in your workouts:
- Side planks – Lie down on your side, place your elbow directly under the shoulder, bend the knees, concentrate on your breathing, squeeze your hips and raise your torso to make it a straight line from head to hips. Hold for 20 seconds then repeat on the other side.
- Squats – Stand with your feet hip width apart, slowly squat down as if you were going to sit on a chair (if you feel unbalanced use a chair and lower down to it, sit down and then stand back up), keep the soles of your fee in contact with the ground pushing through your heels, then slowly stand back up and repeat.
- Pelvic tilts – Stand with your shoulders and bottom against the wall, keep your knees soft, pull your tummy button towards your spine so your back flattens against the wall hold for 4 seconds and release. Repeat 10 times.