Pregnancy Exercise7 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
It’s very beneficial for both you and your baby to stay active during pregnancy. You will most likely feel better in general, making you more resistant to stress and the typical pregnancy discomforts. In addition, pregnancy exercise may also prevent and treat certain pregnancy problems as well as preparing you for the physically demanding childbirth.
You will also continue receiving benefits from pregnancy exercise after you have given birth. Why? Exercise activates the process of breaking down tissue, which in turn activates pathways for rebuilding. The recovery from pregnancy and childbirth will benefit greatly from the activated rebuilding pathways, leading to a quicker recovery.
In this article you will read about how to safely stay active and what to avoid.
A pregnant body changes
When you get pregnant your body will start to change, often rapidly. The hormones in your body will affect your mood, blood volume, need for oxygen, metabolism, temperatur, posture and much more. If you stay active during your pregnancy you will most likely be able to handle these changes better. Movement triggers a lot of helpful processes in the body that will counteract many of the discomforts that come from these changes.
What is physical activity?
- Physical activity, or exercise, is when you move your body, creating a calorie burn.
- It may be some type of sport, weightlifting or cardio exercise.
- It may also be activities in everyday life like going on a walk, bicycle, hike or gardening.
Which physical activity should I pick?
Pick an activity that you’ll find rewarding to do! That’s the best way to stay active. Exercise should be fun and not something you rather not do. Then it might become a stressor which goes against the positive aspects of exercise.
A mental note
If you feel that the thought of exercise is stressing you, inquire why it’s stressing you. We have tons of beliefs about everything, and these beliefs are in some cases limiting for our wellbeing.
Limiting beliefs; “I am no good at X” or “I know I will fail if I try to commit to X”.
If you discover that you have limiting beliefs (which most of us do), create new beliefs! Beliefs aren’t telling truths, they are made up by us and our fears. Remember that <3
Beneficial beliefs; “I might not be a professional at X, but I will sure do my best and that is all that matters” and “I have already failed if I’m not even trying to succeed, so let’s give this a shot. I trust my ability to take care of myself”.
Cardio exercise is a physical activity improving your stamina.
You may continue with the same cardio exercise as you are used to, if it feels good. During the first three months though you shouldn’t exhaust yourself. Keep the intensity level at a pace equal to a brisk walk. Always drink a lot both during and after exercise.
Depending on how used your body is to the type of cardio training you are doing, activities involving a lot of jumping (high impact) might best be excluded from mid pregnancy to the end. This is due to an increased amount of the hormone “relaxin” that relaxes your body’s muscles and ligaments, making your body increasingly unstable.
Note: Your heart rate beats faster during pregnancy. It’s not dangerous but it will most likely have you breathing heavier and feeling more tired than usual.
Pelvic floor muscles
Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles is important for the majority of pregnant women to decrease the risk of urinary leakage. You can do pelvic floor exercises throughout your pregnancy. You’ll find an article about a PREGNANCY AB WORKOUT if you click the link. This workout routine also includes exercise of the pelvic floor muscles.
There are some women that should avoid pelvic floor exercises. Click the link to find out if you have an overactive pelvic floor and shouldn’t do pelvic floor exercises.
Weight lifting/resistance exercise
While pregnancy isn’t a time for setting new personal bests you can continue with weightlifting/resistance exercise during your whole pregnancy. However, since your body is getting increasingly unstable, due to the pregnancy hormone “relaxin”, you should adapt the weights accordingly. You will most likely feel what weights you can handle and what weights that are pushing it. Stay in the safe zone ❤️
The number ONE tips; You know what is right for you!
When you are pregnant you become more relaxed in muscles and joints (once again due to the pregnancy hormone “relaxin”). Therefore, it’s important to be careful when you are stretching, making sure you don’t overextend joints or muscles.
Relaxation is important during pregnancy too. Meditation, yoga or qigong are examples of different ways to relax. If you want to practice relaxation at home:
- Lie down in a comfortable position.
- Use pillows as support.
- Breathe calmly and let every little muscle in your body relax.
- Then tighten, for an example, your leg muscles and feel the difference between tension and relaxation.
- Listen to soothing music to help you get in the mood.
How often and for how long should I exercise?
Aim to exercise for 30 minutes a day or at least 2,5 hours a week. It’s better to move a little everyday than to workout for 2,5 hours in one day.
If you haven’t been exercising previous to pregnancy
Start with a short workout, 10-15 minutes, or a low intensity workout. Gradually increase the length of the workout and frequency. The goal is to exercise 3 times a week 30-45 minutes per session. In addition you can add walks so that you’ll move 2,5 hours a week. If this seems overwhelming, remember that any physical activity is better than none.
If you are an elite athlete or used to exercise A LOT before pregnancy, you can usually continue your training as normal. However, your ability to perform will deteriorate as your belly grows. We also don’t recommend you to aim to set new personal bests during pregnancy. It’s better to adapt your workouts as your body changes, making sure you don’t injure yourself. Consult a doctor, midwife or physical therapist on how to exercise safely, if you want to keep up with elite level exercise.
Physical activity aids pregnancy discomforts
Exercise will increase your overall well being. It also prepares your body for childbirth. On top of that, exercise can prevent and treat certain pregnancy problems:
- Back pain and pelvic girdle pain
- Stretched and thinned muscles of the abdomen, rectus diastasis
- Gestational diabetes
- Anxiety and depression
- Swelling and varicose veins
- Urinary leakage and stool incontinence
Avoid sitting still for long
Don’t sit down for a long period of time. Take short breaks often and move around a little. It makes a big difference if you stand up during parts of the day, instead of always sitting down.
What shouldn’t I exercise?
- Avoid activities where there is a risk of you falling and hurting your belly. Keep in mind that you may experience difficulty with the balance (due to the pregnancy hormone “relaxin”). After halfway through pregnancy, you may need to avoid or be more careful about below activities:
- Contact sports. “Contact sports” are sports such as football, rugby or martial arts.
- Sports where there’s a risk of falling. If you fall you might injure your belly. Examples; downhill skiing, ice skating, gymnastics or horseback riding.
- Avoid diving.
- Physical exercise at high altitude, higher than 2,500 meters above sea level. There is a risk that the fetus gets too little oxygen if you exercise at high altitude when you are not used to it.
- Be careful when lying on your back after the first trimester. The uterus can push against large blood vessels and cause a fall in blood pressure.
When shouldn’t I exercise?
You may need to consult a doctor or midwife how to exercise safely if you have one or more of the following disorders:
- Heart trouble or heart disease
- Chronic bronchitis or lung disease
- Eating disorders
- Late bleeding during pregnancy
Always consult with your doctor or midwife to get an all clear before starting a new workout routine.
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