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Exercising during pregnancy

Are you an exercise freak? Do you love to spend your evenings pounding the sidewalks or doing lengths at your local pool? Or perhaps spinning is more your thing? Or do you get a buzz from lifting weights? Are you a girl who likes to take care of herself and get her heart rate up regularly?

If you are that girl and then you find yourself pregnant it can be a confusing time. You want to keep up your good work don't you? And why shouldn't you! Surely taking care of yourself is even more important now that you are carrying such precious cargo? Of course you want to keep exercising but at what cost? Is it safe? Can you keep doing your beloved workouts without harming the baby?

Of course you can! You just need to play it safe. There are many different types of exercise you can still do while you are expecting. In fact many are actually recommended by health professionals. If you do plan to keep your fitness regime whilst pregnant then here's seven things to keep in mind to ensure you and your bump are the healthiest you can be.

7 Exercising while pregnant can actually help with labour

Not only that, but it can even help you get back in shape after the birth. The more your exercise and stay fit during your pregnancy the easier it will be for your body to adapt to your changing shape. For a start labour is a tiring and enduring process. The more physically fit you are then the better your stamina. And the better your stamina the better you will be able to handle such a physically exerting task like bringing a new born baby into the world! Many agree that exercising during pregnancy can even help to give you a shorter labour and increase your chances of giving birth vaginally.

  • Giving birth requires energy and stamina, so keeping up a regular routine of exercises such as walking, swimming or low impact aerobics may really help shorten that labour and make the birth go as smoothly as possible.
  • Another great idea is cycling – so long as you take it easy. Any exercise where there is a risk of falling during pregnancy could be dangerous so always take your time and be extra careful.
  • If you're looking for something a little less taxing during pregnancy then yoga or pilates could be the perfect way to reconnect with your body. Try and seek out a pregnancy specific class. If you are doing it at home then check that the specific exercises are suitable for pregnancy. Yoga and meditation can help you to relax and the deep breathing and relaxation techniques that they teach you can be an invaluable tool during labour. There's no doubt that pregnant women who do yoga appear healthier, both in body and in mind. As their bodies are more flexible and their ligaments more elastic, they are much more able to adapt to various positions when in labour which in turn can help to seriously reduce labour pain.

So if you can exercise in a way that will prepare your body and mind for the demands of labour and birth then why on earth wouldn't you?

6 Exercising whilst expecting can actually make your pregnancy go more smoothly

Exercising stretches the muscles. This can ease of whole host of pregnancy niggles and aches and pains. Walking improves the circulation which can ease the look and discomfort of varicose veins and swimming strengthens those tummy muscles and supports the weight of your growing bump. There are tons of good exercises out there for a fitter pregnancy including brisk walking, gentle spin classes, aqua-natal classes and swimming. All of these get your heart pumping, keep you supple and manage your weight gain - so long as you don't overdo it.

  • Back pain during pregnancy is something that is extremely common, particular between the fifth and seventh month. This is down to those ligament loosening hormones, weight gain and a shifting centre of gravity. Many healthcare professionals advise that exercising in water, massage therapy and group or individual back care classes may help to ease back pain in pregnancy. So look them up. If you can kill two birds with the one stone by taking care of yourself AND easing your aches and pains during pregnancy then even better.
  • And exercise doesn't just ease backache but has been shown to ease a hole host of other pregnancy symptoms like constipation, pelvic girdle pain and fatigue.
  • Although it's probably the last thing you feel like doing when the dreaded morning sickness hits, some believe that exercise can actually be a great way to get rid of it. Many moms to be report that they actually felt LESS queasy after a work out and that the exercise provided a welcome distraction from their nausea. If you are really suffering and don't feel like getting active then just the fresh air you would get from a brisk walk might be enough to help.
  • Another uncomfortable complication that can often occur during pregnancy is sciatica. During the third trimester the baby starts shifting into the birth position which may place the baby directly onto the nerves leading to a lot of pain and discomfort. If you are a swimmer then this can really help so keep it up. Not only will swimming release natural pain killing hormones called endorphins but it may also help to reduce pain by taking some pressure off the spinal nerves.

5 Exercise tips during pregnancy

So go you if you have decided to stay active during your pregnancy. You're making a great choice for both yourself and your baby. But there are some things to remember. Don't exhaust yourself for one. It's tiring enough growing another human inside you so remember you may need to slow down during your pregnancy. This is normal. Enjoy it and relax. The very fact you are still exercising at all is a great reason to give yourself a massive pat on the back. So don't go too hard. Or BE too hard on yourself.

  • As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise while pregnant. If you become tpo breathless as you talk then chances are you are exercising too strenuously.
  • Remember to always warm up before exercising and cool down afterwards. If you skip the warm up and jump around before your body is ready, you may injure yourself.
  • Wear layers of light clothes that are easy to remove and try not to overheat while pregnant, especially during the first trimester. Make sure that your maternity sports bra is comfortable and fits properly. Those boobs are going through some serious changes too and need to be looked after. Watch our for your shoe size changing during pregnancy (a common occurrence) and make sure that your trainers fit you properly.
  • Try and keep moving while pregnant. Standing still for too long can decrease the flow of blood to the uterus and cause blood to pool in your legs making you feel dizzy and unsteady on your feet. Change positions as much as you can or jog gently on the spot. Remember that you are rehydrating for two now so make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Take frequent sips of water while you exercise. This will help to regulate your temperature and prevent you from becoming dehydrated.

The safest forms of exercise when you are expecting are swimming, brisk walking, using an indoor exercise bike, step or elliptical machines and low-impact aerobics. These activities carry little risk of injury, benefit your entire body and can be continued until birth.

4 Exercises to avoid during pregnancy

Although it's great that so many mama's to be want to keep exercising, you still have to be super careful about what exercises you are doing. Nothing too strenuous, especially not in hot weather. If you go to classes, then be sure that the instructor knows that you are pregnant and is aware how far gone you are. Exercises that have a risk of falling such as skiing, gymnastics, horse riding or ice hockey should be approached with caution. We don't want you injuring yourself or that bun you've got in the oven!

  • It's best to avoid any contact sports where there is a risk of being hit. So no karate, kickboxing or squash.
  • It's safest not to lie flat on your back, especially after the 16 week mark. The weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart. This can make you feel faint.
  • As the baby has no protection against decompression and sickness and gas embolism, scuba diving should be avoided at all costs.
  • Don't exercise at heights of over 2,500m above sea level or else you risk altitude sickness for both you and your little one.

There are plenty of ways that you can still stay fit during your pregnancy but some of the exercises that we have listed above may cause injury for you and your unborn baby. It is for that reason they should be avoided until after your bundle is born.

3 Exercising to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy

The National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence advises that pregnant women should do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day in order to maintain a healthy weight during their pregnancy. The research claims that moderate intensity physical activity will not harm mother or baby. However it does point out that if you have not exercised routinely until that point then then you should begin with no more than three 15 minute sessions per week, increasing gradually to daily 30 minute sessions. Remember though that it is natural and healthy to put on weight during pregnancy. Your body needs to change to help you and give your little one the best start possible. But by exercising sensibly during pregnancy you can ensure you avoid a whole host of complications. 

These include:

  • high blood pressure
  • needing to have a caesarean
  • a too large baby (macrosomia)
  • gestational diabetes

Keeping active is a perfect way to control your weight normally and this is absolutely no different during pregnancy. A moderate and healthy workout routine during pregnancy can be a great way of making sure that you stay healthy and don't put on too much weight. After all you will probably be relaxing your diet slightly, so now you can have that bit of cake with even less guilt. Don't forget though that during pregnancy you are supposed to be gaining weight. By exercising regularly you can be sure that you are gaining the right amount of weight which will be invaluable in losing your baby weight after your little bundle of joy arrives!

2 Exercising to get your body back after pregnancy

So we've talked about exercising during pregnancy to regulate your weight gain and keep it healthy. But did you know that by staying fit during your pregnancy you are also making it a lot of easier to lose those baby pounds post pregnancy? Simply by keeping your body in good condition pre-birth you are making life so much easier post. For a start if you abandon your calorie burning routines when you find out you are expecting (as many moms do), you run the risk of gaining much more weight that you probably should. This will make it ten times harder and take ten times longer to lose when you are finally ready to hit to the gym again. And do you really want all that extra struggle on top of those sleepless nights and diaper changes? We didn't think so. If you exercised right up until the end of your pregnancy then you can do some light exercising and stretching from the start (this is providing you didn't have a caesarean). Research has also shown that, compared with new moms who were inactive during pregnancy, those who exercised were more likely to socialise, entertain and enjoy hobbies post-pregnancy.

  • While running after 20 weeks is not recommended, brisk walking or swimming is a great all over toner for the body and will keep your muscles and limbs toned and supple right till the end of pregnancy. Meaning you have much less work to do post baby!
  • If you are worried about your arms losing their definition during pregnancy then some light weight training is crucial in keeping those upper arms looking slender. You're going to need that upper body strength for lifting the baby when the time comes.
  • Pilates and other core-strength training can be invaluable in getting your tummy back into shape. Pilates is exceptionally good when it comes to strengthening the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.

So while we can't guarantee that you will simply 'bounce back' after you give birth, there's no doubt that exercising throughout your pregnancy can make a real difference.

1 Changing your exercise routine as your pregnancy progresses

While we have covered all the amazing benefits of working out during pregnancy, you must remember that this is an important time for you, your body and your baby and that you will have to adapt your exercise routine as you progress through the different trimesters.

  • So what's the best exercises you can do during the first trimester? Try doing a light weight work-out three days a week, resting at least a day between each session. Compliment this with a cardio work-out three days per week, on the days in-between your weight work-out. Remember to always warm up and cool down and not to push yourself too hard if you feel tired. The first trimester can be an exhausting time!
  • Exercising during the second trimester can be a great way of keeping your energy levels up and helping you to sleep well at night. Aerobic activities such as jogging and swimming, relaxation techniques and strength training are all appropriate during the second trimester of pregnancy. Even if you didn't exercise before, you can still safely begin a routine during the second trimester.
  • Stretching continues to be important during your third and final trimester. Just be cautious of laying on your back and try and use a yoga block instead. Power walking is considered to be really useful during the last trimester as it allows gravity to help the final stages of pregnancy progress. As exercising on your feet can become a struggle by this point, another great way to keep going is by stationary cycling. The bike will not only support your weight but help to reduce bodily swelling by increasing circulation.

So it seems that the more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and get back to your fighting weight later on. When done sensibly, exercise is not dangerous to your baby - so keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as you feel comfortable. And reap the benefits for both you and your little one later on!

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