Regular physical exercise while pregnant offers a range of health benefits and can help prepare your body for childbirth. This includes better weight control, improved mood and maintenance of pre-existing fitness levels. Exercising during pregnancy can also decrease the risk of pregnancy-related complications such as pre-eclampsia and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
However, it’s essential to modify or choose suitable exercises you can do while pregnant as your body will respond differently. It’s also a good idea to consult your doctor, physiotherapist or healthcare professional to determine appropriate exercises for you depending on where you are in the pregnancy, your fitness level and other individual factors.
Keep it Light to Moderate
Be sensible about the level and amount of exercise you do. Overexerting yourself may be harmful to you or your baby. Don’t exhaust yourself. Your routine should comprise of light to moderate exercise. You’ll need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses or if your maternity team advises you to. If you weren’t active before pregnancy, don’t suddenly take up exercise that tires you out.
A light to moderate level of exercise should allow you to still be able to hold a conversation as you exercise. If you are out of breath as you talk, then it’s likely that you’re exercising too strenuously. Remember that exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.
Try to keep active daily. For example, spend 30 minutes walking every day. If you can’t manage that, any amount is better than nothing. If you haven’t been active or are overweight, start with three to four days of light exercise spread across the week.
When exercising while you’re pregnant, ensure you:
- Warm up before exercising, and cool down afterwards
- Avoid strenuous exercise in hot or humid weather
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids
- If you go to exercise classes, make sure your teacher is qualified, knows that you’re pregnant and how many weeks pregnant you are.
Walking is a great exercise as it is a moderate aerobic activity but has minimal stress on your joints. Other good choices are swimming, stationary cycling and low-impact aerobics. Swimming is particularly good because the water supports your increased weight.
Exercise You Can Do While Pregnant
Aside from light to moderate aerobic exercises, the following exercises can also be beneficial for strengthening your body so it can better handle the pregnancy:
- Start on all fours with knees under hips, hands under shoulders and abdominals lifted to keep your back straight.
- Pull in your stomach muscles and raise your back up towards the ceiling, allowing your head to relax gently forward as you curl.
- Hold for a few seconds then slowly return to the starting position. Take care not to lock your elbows or hollow your back, which should return to a straight position.
- Do this slowly 10 times, ensuring your muscles work hard and moving your back carefully. Only move your back as far as you comfortably can.
Pelvic tilt exercises
- Stand with your shoulders and bottom against a wall.
- Soften your knees then pull your stomach towards your spine so your back flattens against the wall.
- Hold for four seconds and release. Repeat up to 10 times.
Pelvic floor exercises
- Sit and lean slightly forward with a straight back.
- Squeeze and lift the muscles as if you are trying to hold in urine.
- Hold the squeeze as you count to 10, then relax for 10 seconds. If you can’t hold for 8, aim to hold for as long as you can.
- Repeat as many as you can, about 10 squeezes. Repeat the whole thing 3 times. Keep breathing while exercising and try to avoid tightening your buttocks.
What to Avoid
Avoid exercises that involve lying flat on your back, especially after 16 weeks, as the weight of the baby presses on large blood vessels and can reduce blood flow. Don’t exercise in situations where you might get too hot. Your body’s temperature is slightly higher when you are pregnant, meaning intensive exercise can cause your core temperature to rise to an unsafe level for your baby faster than you might expect. Drink lots of water, wear lightweight clothes and only exercise in cool, well ventilated areas.
Health Checks in Melbourne and Sydney
Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of health services including physiotherapy, massage, clinical Pilates, yoga, general health check-ups and more in multiple locations across Victoria and New South Wales. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment from one of our CBD based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.