Exercise During Pregnancy
Exercise can be very beneficial if you are conscious of the precautions to take and knowledgeable about the effects that exercise can have on you and your developing baby. The guidelines and limitations for exercise should start as soon as you know you are pregnant, or begin trying to become pregnant.
Consider intensity, frequency and time are things that should be considered.
Go at a low – moderate pace, avoid prolonged exercise, minimise aerobic exercise to less than 20 minutes. Take frequent breaks and cool off.
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water before and after your workout, drink the entire bottle during the workout.
- Avoid exercise on hot day and use fans during hot weather.
- Wear light, loose fitting clothing, cotton is a good option.
- Avoid saunas and steam baths at all times during pregnancy.
Avoid high intensity exercise, studies have shown that when a mother’s heart rate stays in a range of approximately 140bpm, the fetus has no abnormal responses. However when maternal heart rate average 180bpm, indications of feta distress were frequently present. This strongly suggests that high intensity exercise needs to be avoided. To keep intensity at a safe level, follow these guidelines.
- Change from an intermediate or advanced aerobics program to a lighter pace program. Modify the level of impact (do mainly low impact movements) and use less vigorous arm movements. You may have to modify your program more if you are exercising in a weight bearing mode (aerobics, jogging, stair climbing machine) to something lighter such as swimming or cycling).
- Learn how to measure your heart rate and check it frequently. For a ten second exercise heart rate check, it should be 23 beats or less. If it is higher, down the intensity and recheck in five minutes to ensure that you are not working too hard.
- Be realistic about the need to exercise in moderation. You do not need to keep up with non pregnant participants.
- Have a prolonged cool down after the aerobic portion of your workout. Stopping exercise suddenly or going from directly from aerobic exercise to lying on the floor can also have detrimental effects on the fetus. Gradually reduce the intensity of the aerobic exercise and include plenty of stretching and floor exercises at a slow pace.
Avoid frequent and prolonged exercise after week 28 of your pregnancy. Even with moderate exercise intensity, frequent (more than four times a week) exercise after week 28 has been associated with decreased birth weight and gestation duration.
Limit the amount of exercise that you do lying on your back. This is of particular concern from your second trimester one exercising on your back (as when doing abdominal exercises) could cause a reduction of blood flow to the heart and head, causing you to feel faint and light headed. More importantly, the blood flow to the placenta and baby can decrease. Limit the amount of time on your back to 2-3 minutes and if you begin to feel at all dizzy or light headed, turn onto your left side and rest.
About 30% of pregnant woman will experience a separation of the rectus abdominis during pregnancy. If this does occur, abdominal exercises should cease. Even if it is not a problem, it is recommended that you support your abdominal muscle by crossing your hands over the abdominal area (bracing) when doing any crunch type movements. Do not do full sit ups at any time.
In exercise classes, avoid weights above 5kgs as your heart rate will go up too much.
When doing resistance training, include exercises that are low weight high repetition with an emphasis on endurance rather than strength training. Try to avoid isometric contraction and holding your breath. Do not perform lunges or squats, these may lead to back and or pubic pain.
Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Strong pelvic floor muscles will recover better after the labour and delivery and will help to prevent stress incontinence. Follow these guidelines when doing the exercises while seated or lying down – pretend that you are trying to stop yourself from urinating. The small muscles you are squeezing are your pelvic floor muscles.
Wear a good supportive bra, this will help to provide support for your enlarging and tender breasts.
Avoid rapid changes in direction, as your body changes so does your centre of gravity, which may affect your stability, balance and coordination.
Do gentle stretching, the hormone Relaxin is increased in the body during pregnancy. The hormone increases joint laxity, which may make you more susceptible to injury.