Exercising during pregnancy is something that all women are encouraged to do but it can be really confusing to know how much to do or what you should be doing (or avoiding).
What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
Exercising during pregnancy has many benefits, a few of which include:
- Helping to control weight gain
- Helping to reduce high blood pressure problems
- Helping to prevent the development of gestational diabetes
- Improving fitness
- Improving sleep
- Improving mood
- Labour may be shorter, easier and less complicated (Clapp 2002)
What is interesting is that studies have not only found exercise to not only be a huge benefit to mum but also to baby. Foetal benefits of exercise include faster placental growth rate, high placental function and increased placental volume. There is also current research suggesting that the children of women who exercised during their pregnancy are more likely to be active themselves (Waterland et al 2016).
How much exercising should I be doing?
The Department of Health recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. These guidelines are very similar to that of the general population, however it is recommended that women who have been sedentary before pregnancy are recommended to follow a gradual progression of exercise.
A general recommendation to pregnant women would be to begin gradually with 10 minute bouts of moderate intensity exercise and gradually build it up to a total of 150 minutes, spread throughout the week. What is useful to note is that moderate intensity exercise means that you are out of breath and but could still hold a conversation – it often means working harder than you think!
Pregnant women who are already active should maintain their physical activity levels, however it may be necessary to change the type of exercise that is done – for example replacing contact sport with noncontact sport or an exercise class.
Are there any risks to exercising during pregnancy?
A lot of women worry about the risks of exercise however there is research that in an otherwise normal and healthy pregnancy that exercise does not increase the incidence of miscarriage or birth defect or increase the incidence of membrane rupture of premature labour (Duncombe et al 2009).
There are situations where you should avoid exercise completely such as: pregnancy induced hypertension, ruptured membranes, incompetent cervix, placental disease of a history of miscarriages or premature labour. If you are at all concerned then your midwife or consultant should be able to advice you on whether you should avoid exercise.
Activities to avoid:
A variety of activites are recommended, however there are some that should be avoided:
Activities with an increased risk of trauma – these are activities where there is a higher risk of falling or high impact injuries eg skiing, surfing, off road cycling, horse riding and contact sports
Activities that involve lying on your back after the 1st trimester – these include some yoga or pilates classes, however there are may that are suitable if they offer modifications. There are so many excellent antenatal exercise classes out there that you shouldn’t’ struggle to find one that suits.
Activites pregnant women who are not already active should avoid – running, joggin, racquet sports and strenuous strength training are not recommended if you haven’t already been doing them for a prolonged period of time before getting pregnant.
The best advice…
Overall the best piece of advice is to listen to your body. As a general rule – if it feels good keep going, if it is uncomfortable then stop. If at any point you get dizzy or suffer from headaches, chest pain, abdominal pain or calf swelling then stop and seek advice from your midwife.
The Luna Hive has specialist pre and postnatal personal trainers as well as a wide range of pregnancy and postnatal fitness classes. Click here to see local experts to you.