With caution being crucial during pregnancy with everything from how many servings of fish you eat per week to exposure to household cleaning products, it is no wonder that women are hesitant about following an exercise program. Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy? How much is alright? What are the essentials that every women should know in order to make the most of workouts, while also keeping the well-being of baby in mind?
Embrace Fitness for a Healthy Pregnancy
Get out your kettle ball and yoga mat. The fitness professionals at Physical Activity Australia say that all women should make both aerobic and strength-training exercises a regular part of a healthy lifestyle while pregnant, as long as there are no complications. Exercise not only makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight, boost energy levels, and reduce stress, it also is key for the prevention of gestational diabetes.
The American Pregnancy Society also explains that a fit pregnancy will help to reduce some of the common discomforts that come with the different stages of pregnancy, like nausea and lower back pain, while also helping to prepare your body for labour.
How Much Is Enough?
As a general rule of thumb, the experts suggest factoring in your pre-pregnancy routine when deciding how frequently to workout. If you were a fitness buff before getting pregnant, then you can for the most part continue your former habits. Just avoid activities that require a lot of balance and exertion. During pregnancy, the body changes significantly over time, with joints becoming looser, the centre of gravity shifting, and changes to heart rate and blood volume. This means you’ll have to save the rock climbing and snowboarding for after you’ve recovered from childbirth.
For women who were already exercising, 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week (about half an hour, 5 days a week) is the standard goal recommended by Victoria’s State Better Health Channel. For those who are new to regular workouts, starting out with 20 minutes, 3 or 4 days a week will help to keep you fit, in shape, and upbeat, and increase your endurance.
Exercise Inspiration for Each Trimester
During the first trimester, when your body hasn’t yet changed shape very much but you are dealing with an onslaught of symptoms from the rapid shift in hormones, like fatigue, nausea, and mood shifts, you can still do most activities, from cycling to aerobic dance. Swimming is one of the best options during the first trimester as it tends to ease nausea, while providing a solid full-body workout that won’t put pressure on your joints.
Most women feel their best during the second trimester as the early pregnancy symptoms have faded, but your body hasn’t yet grown and changed as much as it will during the third trimester. This is the ideal time to sign up for a pre-natal yoga class. Pre-natal yoga is great for bonding with other pregnant women while also learning effective and pregnancy-safe exercises to strengthen the body and breathing techniques to manage stress.
During the third trimester, it is important to avoid anything that involves balance, like cycling or ice skating, as the body’s centre of gravity will have shifted. It can also feel like a challenge finding time to get to the gym for a workout. This is a great time for using an elliptical or treadmill at home to help stick to your routine. You won’t have to set aside time to head to the gym or your training class (which means more time for shopping for newborn supplies!). Also, you’ll spend less than a membership with a rent-to-own purchase policy for your equipment. And, you’ll have everything you need to get back into shape once the baby is born and finding time to leave the house to exercise is nearly impossible!
Safety Tips Throughout Pregnancy
Exercising during pregnancy is not just a great idea, it is also important for enjoying a healthy pregnancy and an easier labour. Keep these safety guidelines in mind, however, in order to ensure the well-being of you and baby:
- Hydrate regularly. This is incredibly important as the body requires more water than before pregnancy and it is easier to become dehydrated while pregnant. Keep a water bottle with you during your workouts and take frequent water breaks.
- Wear comfortable loose clothing to stay cool and avoid overheating. If you feel hot, take a break; you’re working out with too much intensity.
- Avoid exercises that require a lot of jumping or bouncing, especially during the second and third trimester.
- Don’t lie flat on your back when doing floor exercises, it can obstruct blood flow.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in nourishing foods, with a healthy snack after each workout.
- Always talk to your healthcare provider about your exercise habits, and ask any questions at each check-up.
When you are pregnant, you will probably focus on your body more than at any other time of your life. You are, after all, creating a whole new life, so every aspect of your physical and mental well-being counts during these forty plus weeks. You need to be in shape and healthy in order to support your body during the process, to give your baby the best start at good health, and, of course, to make it easier to bounce back to your pre-pregnancy shape!
For sample workouts for each stage of pregnancy, these are some fantastic resources:
- Sample workout and equipment for the first trimester
- Sample workout and equipment for the second trimester
- Sample workout and equipment for the third trimester
If you’ve recently given birth, you may be interested in our tips on how to safely return to exercise after giving birth.