What does safe exercise during pregnancy look like? It’s a popular question for a lot of women.
The general rule when you are pregnant is that you don’t push yourself harder and try to do more than what you could before you were pregnant.
But really, if you are someone who hasn’t exercised before pregnancy are we going to tell you can’t start now just sit on the couch for 9 months?! Nope.
So here are some rules and considerations to guide you whether you are starting exercise or continuing.
Ease Into Exercise
Pregnancy is not a time to start training to do marathons. If you have never exercised or its been more than a couple of months, start with walks. You can build up intensity a little from a walk, but it’s done with caution while listening to your body. I recommend being supervised by a Personal trainer (trained for pregnancy training). Stick with low impact work. You can change the intensity by adding more pace, hills and duration. You can join a gym and use things like the elliptical machine.Swimming is a great exercise when pregnant – a full body workout that is easy on the joints. Strength training is great during pregnancy, but if you haven’t done strength training before, don’t start it on your own – get a Personal Trainer to guide and supervise you. Technique will be important as will selecting the right weights and load for you to work with safely.
Listen to Your Body
If something has become uncomfortable or even painful to do while pregnant, stop doing it. Apart from the obvious belly, your body changes in many ways with hormones and not all of it is obvious.
As Your Body Grows, Regress the Intensity
As your body changes, its going to take less and less effort to fatigue you and leave you out of breath. So gradually ease back, cut yourself some slack.
As Your Body Grows, Reduce the Dynamic Impact Exercises You Do
I see many women who love to exercise and they want to keep going through they’re pregnancy which is great. What I don’t like seeing, is a woman who is visibly pregnant and continuing to run, jump, skip, hop and anything else that involves gravity loaded impact work. Please think about the extra weight your pelvic floor is dealing with. Think about the effect gravity has on the load travelling through your body, every time you hit the ground while running – now think about your pelvic floor dealing with it, when its already under increased load from supporting the baby etc. Now think about the work you will need to do to recover from that after you have the baby. Do you want to leak when you laugh, cough, sneeze, jump or run? No then back off the high impact exercises.
As Your Body Grows, Ease Back on Loading Up the Abdominal Muscles
Firstly, if you don’t yet know about Diastasis Rectii the you need to read my post – I’m serious, please read it, knowledge is power ladies!
When I talk about the tummy muscles I am referring to the Rectus Abdominis – the 6-pack muscles. As your belly grows these muscles are stretched across your belly. Often leading to separation or DRA. If you are doing a exercises that allow gravity to place load on the muscles that are already being stretched, you are making the situation worse. Adjust things like pushup to remove the gravity and load from the equation – do push-ups elevated, getting more and more vertical as your belly grows. When you are against the wall you can increase the load on your chest (to make up for gravity) by adding a resistance around your back. Protect those tummy muscles.
Reduce the Range of Motion as Your Pregnancy Progresses
Relaxin helps prepare your body by relaxing ligaments and therefore joints – necessary to prep the birth canal for delivery. This means that joins, when placed under force and not controlled, can be pushed beyond their safe range of motion. Causing pain and injury. So, be sure to modify exercises to ensure they are well controlled movements (avoid ballistic fast movements) and stick to your safe range of motion. Pregnancy is not the time to be pushing your flexibility.
Reduce the Weights
If you are strength training already, be aware of what is happening with your Rectus Abdominis and core. The heavier the weight the more likely you are building pressure in your abdomen when trying to lift them. This creates additional pressure on the Rectus Abdominis (see point above about the tummy muscles) and the pelvic floor. Gradually reduce the weights the further along your pregnancy progresses. Again I advise the help and supervision of pregnancy trained Personal Trainer to ensure safe exercise.
Everyone is different and these are general tips. I recommend being supervised and instructed by a trained fitness professional. This includes specialist pregnancy exercise group classes run by qualified instructors.
There are ways of regressing and easing back exercise. What is required by one pregnant client may not be required by the next. I believe exercise is a great way to prepare the body for pregnancy, delivery and the post-natal phase – when done safely.
As always, please seek the advice of a medical professional before starting any new exercise.