Being pregnant raises a whole host of questions about what is and isn’t safe to do. This is especially true when it comes to exercise. While in the past, it was a common belief that staying active while pregnant was unsafe and would harm the baby’s development – thankfully this myth has long since been debunked!
Thanks to modern scanning, long-term studies and improvements in monitoring, medical experts are confident that moderate exercise during pregnancy is not only safe, but extremely beneficial. It can help to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Plus, it helps women stay fit and healthy. It can also help prepare and strengthen the body for labour and aid mental health during a period of huge transition.
So, what are the general guidelines for exercising when pregnant?
In most cases, professionals agree it’s completely fine to exercise during pregnancy. The general rule of thumb is if you were active before pregnancy, you can keep up your normal daily physical activity for as long as you feel comfortable. However, as the baby grows, you may need to reduce the frequency, time and intensity of your exercise.
If you lifted weights before pregnancy, it’s okay to continue – just bring your weight down by about 20% as you progress through your pregnancy. Take care not to bring heavy weights over the head or introduce strain you’re not used to.
One thing to bear in mind is that when pregnant your body produces a hormone that causes the ligaments and tendons to soften and become more elastic. This can increase the risk of injury because your joints are looser – as there’s less support for your joints, you may find it more difficult to balance and need to reduce any intense activity.
If you didn’t exercise regularly before pregnancy, aim to avoid anything strenuous or high intensity and stick to gentler exercises such as walking and yoga. These are very effective and can work wonders for your fitness and health. Start slowly with the advice of your doctor and build up as you progress.
Tips for exercising when pregnant
- Avoid strenuous exercise in very hot weather
- Make sure you’re taking on enough fluid and stay hydrated
- Warm up and cool down properly
- Consider swimming or aqua aerobics – water-based exercises are great as the water will help to support your weight
- Focus on core strengthening and pelvic floor exercises – both your core and pelvic floor muscles are put under a great deal of strain during pregnancy and labour, so it’s important to keep these muscles strong
- Tell the instructor of any fitness class you attend that you’re pregnant – they’ll be able to advise you on which moves to avoid or adapt to best suit you
- Avoid exercises that could involve falling i.e. horse riding, skiing, cycling, plus contact sports like kickboxing or squash