Exercise in pregnancy is something that we’re often told that we should do. But the idea of hitting the gym or pounding the pavement fills many women with dread. Even women who were fit, healthy and exercised regularly before they were pregnant are too worried about hurting themselves or their baby to enjoy a workout. There are many benefits to exercising during pregnancy, and as long as you do it safely, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy it. Here’s a guide to help you.
The Benefits of Exercise in Pregnancy
Even if you have never exercised regularly or had a very sedentary lifestyle before you got pregnant, it’s a great time to start, as long as you don’t push yourself too hard. Some of the benefits of exercising while you are pregnant include:
- Reduced backache
- Improved stamina – great for labour
- Boosted mood and reduced stress
- Improved sleep
- Easier recovery
- Lowered risk of diabetes
- Increased strength and fitness
Another huge benefit of exercising is that if you can stick to it during pregnancy, you are far more likely to carry on with a healthier lifestyle afterwards.
What You Need to Know About Exercising While You Are Pregnant
Before you start exercising during your pregnancy, however fit you were before, there are some musts that you should be aware of. These include the following:
- Avoid exercise that could lead to a fall
- Expect your fitness levels to drop
- Pregnancy changes your centre of gravity – so expect your balance to be off
- Don’t lie flat on your back for long periods – especially after 16 weeks
- Don’t do contact sports
- Don’t go scuba diving – your baby has no protection from decompression sickness
- Avoid going above 2500m above sea level to avoid altitude sickness
- Whatever you are doing, stop immediately if you feel pain in your stomach or pelvis, are dizzy or nauseous, you are bleeding, or you have a headache. Get in touch with your doctor or midwife straight away.
Always Warm Up and Cool Down
Your body is under more strain while you are pregnant, which means injuries are more likely. Make sure you always warm-up and cool down, even for a short or relaxed workout.
If you’ve never exercised, you should take it slowly, but you might be able to build up the intensity during your pregnancy. On the other hand, if you were very fit before, you’ll need to reduce the intensity and time while you are pregnant.
Listen to Your Body
It’s always important to listen to your body when you exercise, but this is even more important when you are pregnant. You should never push your body to the point where it’s uncomfortable. If you do, either slow down, take a break or stop.
Before any exercise, make sure you have comfortable clothes, a good pair of insoles and shoes, and a supportive sports bra. These will help you to stay comfortable, but they’ll also protect you from injuries and strains.
Check in with Your Doctor
While you are pregnant, you should check in with your doctor or midwife before starting a new exercise plan, and if you experience any symptoms while exercising. They are the best people to give you advice. If you sustain an injury while exercising, it’s worth getting checked out by the Circle Health Group in case you need the assistance of an orthopaedic surgeon for serious sports injuries. You are more likely to fall or sustain another injury while pregnant, and Circle Health Group can offer quick and easy appointments to make sure you are well and that you can recover as soon as possible.
When you are pregnant your body is working harder than ever, which means hydration and refuelling with healthy, filling foods is more important. Make sure you sip water throughout the exercise and for the rest of the day and fill up on high-protein meals and snacks to support your body afterwards.
Be Careful in Hot Weather
Overheating can be a risk to your baby. We’re advised not to take very hot baths during pregnancy, and any exercises that increase your body temperature dramatically should also be avoided. In general, this means avoiding things like hot yoga. But on very hot days, you should also avoid running or even walking outdoors for long periods. Try to stick to the shade when it’s very hot and take regular breaks to cool down. A hot day is a perfect time for a relaxing swim in a cool pool if you do feel like a workout.
Find Something That You Enjoy
You are more likely to stick to exercise and get all of the benefits if it’s something that you enjoy. Try walking, gentle dance, pregnancy yoga and other options until you find something that lifts your mood.
Exercise in pregnancy can be a wonderful thing, and even if you’ve never worked out before, it’s a great time to start. Just be sure to listen to your body, hydrate and refuel, and never go past the point where you are comfortable. It’s not the time to be pushing for personal bests!