Does exercise help during pregnancy?

Because exercise promotes muscle tone, strength, and endurance, it can help you carry the weight you gain during pregnancy, prepare you for the physical stress of labour, and make it easier to get back into shape after the baby is born. Being active during your pregnancy can also reduce the physical discomforts of backache,constipation, fatigue, and swelling; can improve your mood and self-image; and can even help you sleep more soundly.

Read more about the benefits of exercising during pregnancy, here.

Is there any reason why I shouldn't exercise?

Some women need to take extra care when exercising. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise if you:

have had a threatened miscarriage

have had a previous premature baby

know that you are at risk of premature labour this time

know that you have a low-lying placenta

have had significant bleeding

have had problems with your lower back or hip joints

have a pre-existing medical condition

have very high blood pressure

are expecting more than one baby

I do a high-intensity workout. Is it safe during pregnancy?

If you're in good health, quite fit, and feel up to it, go ahead and continue your routine. According to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, healthy, well-conditioned women who exercised before pregnancy may continue to do so throughout pregnancy without compromising their baby's health or development. Researchers from the University of Oslo, Norway, studied 42 pregnant women who exercised six times per week at either a high or medium intensity. When the researchers compared the women's length of labour, maternal weight gain, and the baby's birth weight, they found no differences between the two groups of exercisers. Remember to let your doctor or midwife know you plan to continue your workout routine.

Which forms of exercise are best for pregnant women?

Walking, jogging, swimming, stationary cycling, and aquanatal workouts are all considered good, safe exercise during pregnancy, as long as you don't overdo it.Yoga and Pilates are good, as long as you find a registered practitioner who is experienced in dealing with pregnant women.

If I've never exercised before, what precautions I should take?

As long as you get the go-ahead from your midwife or doctor, you can engage in mild to moderate exercise. Stick to low-impact activities such as walking or swimming, and keep workout sessions short. For specific recommendations, refer to our list ofexercises recommended for pregnancy. You could also try joining a specific pregnancy or antenatal exercise class, so you know that all exercises are safe for pregnancy.

Should I change my routine at different stages of my pregnancy?

Yes. Even if you were active before your pregnancy, you will naturally feel inclined to scale down your exercise routine to accommodate your growing uterus. Additionally, you should follow general workout guidelines for pregnant women. During the first trimester it's especially important that you avoid overheating. After the first trimester, you'll also need to eliminate exercises that are performed while flat on your back or while you're standing in one place for long periods, as both can reduce blood flow to the baby.

Which sports are not recommended?

Sports with a high potential for hard falls or ones where you might be thrown off-balance are not a good idea for pregnant women. These include horseriding, downhill skiing, gymnastics and waterskiing. Additionally, most doctors and midwives recommend giving up cycling after the second trimester, even if you're an experienced cyclist, because of the potential for falls. You can, however, use an exercise bike for as long as you like.

How can I tell if I'm exercising too much?

In general, you shouldn't go for the burn or exercise to exhaustion. Listen to your body and stop exercising if you feel if you've done too much. Because you'll have less oxygen available for aerobic exercise, you should generally stick to 60 per cent of your maximum heart rate while pregnant. Some women like to monitor their heart rate while exercising, but you should never rely on this alone as heart rates in pregnancy can vary widely. A good rule of thumb is to slow down if you can't comfortably carry on a conversation while exercising.

And stop exercising immediately if you experience dizziness, shortness of breath, feeling faint, vaginal bleeding, difficulty walking, contractions, or unusual absence of fetal movements. Do bear in mind that your baby is often most quiet when you're exercising.

What exercise can I do after the birth?

I've just had a baby, and I want to get back in shape. When can I safely start exercising again?

Getting your body back after the birth may be high on your wish list, but you should start slowly, a little bit at a time. First, you need to make sure that you're physically ready. Then you can begin the process of regaining your former shape with a series of easy stretching and firming exercises. As soon as you're able, you can add asecond set of exercises. If you have had a caesarean, you can begin to do gentle tummy exercises and pelvic floor exercises as soon as you feel ready, as this will help to speed up your recovery.

If you notice fresh vaginal bleeding, you may be doing too much too soon, and you should take it easy for a while longer.

As a new mum, I don't have time to exercise. Any suggestions?

Finding time, let alone the energy, to exercise can be difficult with a baby in tow. But there are ways to bring your baby with you or to build time for exercise into your busy, baby-driven schedule. Even a brisk daily walk to the park with the pram will help you feel more fit.


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