exercise in pregnancy

Written by Robert Johnston, Personal Trainer

If you have never exercised before, you should get advice from your Doctor or Midwife before starting any new exercise regime. If you have previously exercised, then most certainly yes you can exercise during pregnancy and it is safe (if done correctly). Daily exercise won’t harm your baby and may even prevent complications, such as pre-eclampsia. It may also help with your aching back, shorten your labour and increase your chances of giving birth naturally.

Exercise will help you decrease back aches and pelvic girdle pain, constipation and keep fatigue at bay. It will also help you get a better nights rest, feel better about body changes, maintain a healthy weight, help reduce or prevent depression and improve your self-esteem. Lastly, for those who are very body conscious, getting back into shape after the baby is born is greatly improved with an exercise history, and if you develop diabetes during pregnancy exercise can help manage the blood sugar levels.

The best type of exercise should prepare muscles for labour and birth, keep you supple, manage weight gain by burning calories, gets your heart pumping and won’t cause you to push your body to hard. Varying the exercises helps keep you motivated. Try swimming (very good for the back), walking, yoga, Pilates and strength and conditioning exercises.

Morning sickness and tiredness restrict most women but should improve in the second trimester. Keep sessions low impact and short to start with, for example 15 minutes, and slowly work up to 30 minutes every day. If you are a veteran exerciser a good rule of thumb is you should be able to hold a conversation during your workout. Avoid breathlessness or panting. Always listen to your body and rest if feeling tired or strained. Rely on how you feel, not your heart rate.

When to stop exercising: Chest, leg, joint or stomach pain. Dizziness or feeling faint. Shortness of breath. Vaginal bleeding or loss of fluid from your vagina. Difficulty walking and contractions. It is best not to overheat. Avoid hot or humid conditions, avoid swimming pools over 32 degrees C. Always listen to your body. You need to stop overly vigorous activity in the third trimester, contact sports, high risk of falling, exertion at altitude greater than 6,000 feet and scuba diving.

Notes: Regular exercise is associated with a lower incidence of excessive maternal weight gain, gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), pregnancy-induced hypertension, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, dyspnea and low-back pain (Davies et al., 2003; Weissgerber et al., 2006). It has been shown that women who continue regular, weight-bearing exercise throughout the entire duration of pregnancy tend to have easier, shorter and less complicated deliveries (Clapp, 2002).

About the Author: Robert Johnston has been working in London as a Personal Trainer for 15 years. He started working in New Zealand for a large Gym in Auckland and moved to London and now is a mobile PT training people in their homes. He currently works in the South West London area and is contactable on: 07766687410