Is pregnancy and exercise a good combination? It’s actually an excellent combination! Staying active during your pregnancy not only makes you feel better during your pregnancy, but aids when giving birth and during the recovery process postpartum.
When you exercise, endorphins are released. They are the body’s natural painkillers and they lift your mood and decrease stress which is beneficial for both you and your baby.
Exercise aids your pregnant body
Exercise improves your blood circulation, which in turn reduces the swelling of the body, the risk of varicose veins and improves the flow of nutrition to the baby. Exercise also results in a strong body that will carry the growing weight of the belly with a healthier posture, decreasing the risk of lower back and neck pain.
Make walking a habit
Walking is a great everyday exercise, especially if you aren’t used to exercise before pregnancy. Make sure to go on a daily brisk walk of 20-30 minutes at least three times a week. If you own a pair of hiking sticks or want to invest in some, please feel free to use them! They will increase the benefits of the walks since your arms get activated too.
If you like cycling it’s a good way of exercise during the first two months while the baby is well protected far down in the pelvis. Later in pregnancy the risk of falling is greater (due to a shift in the center of gravity) as well as the damage it would do if you fell.
Dancing is a fun way of exercising given you enjoy moving to music. All forms of dancing are good as long as you avoid jumping and all too sudden movements. The pregnancy hormone relaxin relaxes the body’s joints and ligaments hence your body is getting increasingly unstable. If you are used to exercise you will most likely notice your limitations and be able to decide for yourself what works and what doesn’t.
You can continue, or get started, with strength training during your whole pregnancy. If you are new to strength training, don’t use heavy weights or do complex movements. Stick to what feels safe for you which probably will be isolated machine exercises. However, if you are used to strength training you can continue doing what you are used to. Just make sure to adapt your training if some movements feel uncomfortable. And remember, what works for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.
“Aim to maintain” is a great slogan for pregnancy and exercise. You shouldn’t aim to set new personal bests but rather work to maintain the strength and stamina you have already achieved. “Maintaining” isn’t as simple as it sounds though since your baby is being prioritized, meaning steals the nutrition lol, during the pregnancy. But this is just as it should be. The baby should be in focus during this explicit time. To best benefit both of you should drop the high expectations and workout just to feel good. You have plenty of time to work on your fitness after the pregnancy.
Yoga focuses on balancing both mind and body. It consists of physical exercise, deep relaxation and breathing exercises that will improve your physical strength, body control and mental strength. These are skills that will be highly beneficial during labour and childbirth.
What to avoid
As earlier mentioned, the pregnancy hormone relaxin relaxes your body’s connective tissue (joints and ligaments) which means it’s good to avoid excessive stretching.
Avoid high impact exercises or workouts with a lot of jumping and quick movements.
If you feel dizzy, nauseous or having a hard time breathing while lying on your back, avoid lying on your back all together.
When you experience an abdominal separation (usually in the second trimester), avoid doing planks and sit-ups.
Avoid all types of contact and extreme sports or sports where there’s a high risk of falling (eg. horse riding and downhill skiing) or get hit in the belly (martials arts etc).
Don’t exhaust yourself to the limit and beyond in the first trimester. There’s no research done on extreme exercise in this trimester. During the second and third trimester it’s proven to be safe to exercise on a very high level, but even still it might be good to keep it on a moderate level. Tiredness might increase the risk of wrongful performance, which in turn increases the risk of you hurting yourself.
If you get a lot of contractions when jogging, walk instead. Sometimes walking is causing contractions too. Then strength training might be a better option or some of the cardio machines you’ll find at gyms.
If you suffer from pelvic girdle pain, there are some movements you should avoid. Stay away from movements where you only put load on one leg (asymmetric and diagonal exercises), like lunges or step-ups.
Pregnancy and exercise tips!
It’ll very most likely come in handy if you have practiced breathing and relaxation exercises before entering labour. Breathing techniques and relaxation exercises will help you handle the pain and stay calm.
Do exercise your abdominal muscles, but focus on the inner abdominal muscles. You’ll find a pregnancy ab workout here!
Work on your posture. The heavy belly will put a lot of strain on your lower back if you aren’t strong enough to keep an upright posture without a swayback.
Focus on pelvic floor exercises. You shouldn’t do pelvic floor exercises if you have a hyperactive pelvic floor though. Click the link to find out if you might have it. Otherwise, how to exercise your pelvic floor muscles; tighten the muscles around the rectum, vagina and urethra for about 2 seconds. Then rest 2 seconds. Repeat 10 times. This exercise can be done in a sitting, lying or standing position.
Always consult with your doctor or midwife to get an all clear before starting a new workout routine.
Get your maternity activewear here!