In previous years, it was recommended that women take things easy during pregnancy. However recent studies, supported by the UK National Health Service (NHS), advise that exercise can be safe during pregnancy and can have positive impacts for both mother and baby!
Exercise is not dangerous for your baby, if carried out in a safe manner. In fact, the NHS states that there is some evidence to suggest that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour. It is important to strengthen muscles to help you carry the extra weight of pregnancy. Exercise can also help make joints stronger, improve circulation, ease backache and generally help you feel well.
In addition to the above, there are host of other benefits to exercising during pregnancy, including:
- Maintains general fitness levels
- Improves cardiovascular fitness
- Reduces the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Lowers gestational weight gain (note: weight gain during pregnancy is to be expected and will vary from woman to woman. A weight increase of 10-12.5kg is perfectly normal and healthy by the end of the third trimester)
- Eases constipation
- Improves sleep
- Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes
- Reduces the risk of preeclampsia
- Increases body awareness and improves self-image
- Prepares body for labour and postnatal recovery
Whilst pregnancy is not the time to work towards a personal best deadlift or that upcoming half marathon, regular exercise can take place with adaptations to ensure all activities are carried out safely.
Exercises to avoid in pregnancy include those:
- where falling is more likely, which can be more likely in pregnancy as a growing bump can shift mum’s centre of gravity
- which may cause any abdominal trauma such as contact sports
- which require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping or bouncing due to potential weakness in the pelvic floor
- require breath holding for an extended period of time
- which require laying down and/ or pressing overhead
Although the list above may seem long, there are still plenty of exercises which are safe to do and remain beneficial. The types of exercises suitable for pregnancy can be broken down into three main areas:
Aerobic exercise is an activity that promotes rhymical movements of large muscle groups, such as walking and swimming. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week (over 3-5 days), preferably 30 – 75 minutes per day at a moderate intensity
Aim for 2-3 30 minute sessions per week (or less if combined with an aerobic activity in 1 session). Exercise should take place on non-consecutive days to allow time for rest and recovery.
At least 2-3 times per week and on days when most active. Should include static stretching for 10-30 seconds and dynamic stretching of 8-10 repetitions.
If you are pregnant and active – keep going, but ensure you adapt accordingly
If you are pregnant and not active – start now, but gradually and with adaptations