Find out why it’s great to Exercise when Pregnant!

Exercising during pregnancy for most women is a safe and healthy thing to do AND benefits your baby too!

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However, it is advisable for all women to have a pregnancy health check with your Midwife/ GP before you start your exercise or fitness programme.

Here are some fabulous benefits of exercising throughout your pregnancy:

  • Helps alleviate many symptoms of pregnancy, eg back ache, varicose veins etc
  • Enhances self esteem, mood and positive body image– and therefore less likely to have prenatal depression
  • Better posture (and therefore less back pain)
  • Improved sleep and relaxation AND more energy
  • Maintain a healthy weight gain AND Faster postnatal recovery:

A new report out that suggests the reason why it may be so difficult for some women to shed their post-baby weight is because they, are gaining too much weight during pregnancy which makes it more difficult to lose afterwards.

There are no official UK guidelines for how much weight you should gain over your pregnancy. There is only general advice that most women put on somewhere between 10kg and 12.5kg (22lb to 28lb). You’ll gain most of the weight after 20 weeks.

See below for average weight gain:

Pre-pregnancy BMI BMI Total weight gain Rates of weight gain
2nd and 3rd trimester (average range/week)
Underweight Less than 18.5 13kg to 18kg (28lb to 40lb) 0.5kg to 0.6kg (1lb to 1.3lb)
Normal weight 18.5 to 24.9 11.5kg to 16kg (25lb to 35lb) 0.4kg to 0.5kg (0.8lb to 1lb)
Overweight 25 to 29.9 7kg to 11.5kg (15lb to 25lb) 0.2kg to 0.3kg (0.5lb to 0.7lb)
Obese 30 or more 5kg to 9kg (11lb to 20lb) 0.2kg to 0.3kg (0.4lb to 0.6lb)

The bottom line is you will be able to get back to your pre pregnancy size faster if you have exercised and eaten healthily throughout your pregnancy.  Remember – eating for 2 is a myth! You do not need to drink full-fat milk or change your diet at all for the first six months of the pregnancy. Even in the last three months you need just 200 extra calories a day  –  the equivalent of a small sandwich. (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence)

  • More oxygen rich blood via placenta to your baby .The placenta is your baby’s main source of nourishment for growth and therefore anything that can promote the healthiest possible placental function has to be a huge benefit. In other words the healthier and more efficient your cardiovascular system is, the more likely it is to drive oxygen and nutrient rich blood to benefit the function of the placenta and your baby. And as research shows the best possible way to builds a strong, efficient and healthy cardio vascular system is with cardio vascular exercise.
  • You can lower your gestational diabetes risk by as much as 27 percent. High blood sugar during pregnancy puts you at extremely high risk for developing type II diabetes in the decade after delivering and raises the odds of preterm delivery or having an overweight baby. If you do develop it—and many fit women do because genetics and age play a significant role—exercise may help prevent or delay your need for insulin or other medications.
  • Increased ability to cope with labour anxiety and pain AND increased endurance levels for labour – you will need it as labour can be a marathon! Both mine were LONG and I was glad I was fit and strong to cope with them. Some studies show you may also decrease the time you are in active labour – No guarantees, of course, but strong abs and a fit cardiovascular system can give you more oomph and stamina for the pushing stage.
  • You’re less likely to get constipated.Pregnant women’s intestinal tracts often get backed up due to high progesterone levels and a growing uterus, but exercise, along with a high-fibre diet, keeps your digestive system humming..
  • Your child may have a healthier heart. The developing babies of prenatal exercisers have more efficient hearts than those of non-exercisers, and this higher cardio fitness level seems to last into the childhood years.
  • Your children may grow up to be smarter.Some research indicates that kids of mums who work out during pregnancy have better memories, in addition to higher scores on intelligence and language tests!

The most important wisdom for exercising during pregnancy is to “listen to your body”

Remember every woman’s pregnancy is different and changes through the 9 months. I felt amazing during my first pregnancy and continued my exercise programme with no trouble and a spring in my step. I definitely had more aches and pains with my second, I still exercised regularly (I was teaching spin up until 8.5 months!) but not as often as I was exhausted from running around after a toddler… You are likely to have ‘energetic’ periods and also ‘exhausted/ fed up’ times. So you need to be flexible to your exercise goals; and not a slave to a rigid training regime.

Don’t try to exercise at your former level; instead, do what’s most comfortable for you now. Ideally work no harder than a level 8 on the perceived exertion scale – 1 is when you are sitting on the sofa completely relaxed, 10 is maximum 100% flat out effort, so a 7/8 is as hard as you should push yourself in pregnancy – sweaty, a little breathless but able to manage a conversation is a good guide I used with clients.  Low impact exercise is better than high impact, especially as your bump starts to grow bigger as it puts less strain on your joints and ligaments that are having to cope with the extra weight and also the hormone relaxin which makes us more unstable and prone to injury.

I will write another post soon on the best types of exercises to do whilst pregnant –but in a nutshell you can’t go wrong with walking, swimming,  squats, lunges, press ups against the wall (on the floor puts too much pressure on your rectus abdominus and could result in diastasis recti) tricep dips, light weight work for the upper body. Spin/indoor cycling is good as low impact (but adjustments need to be made as your bump grows and not too much work out of the saddle), prenatal yoga and Pilates. DEFINITELY no sit ups – although you do need to work your deep core muscles – the TVA – and of course the pelvic floor…

REMEMBER not to jack knife out of bed from the lying position – roll to your side and use your hands to push yourself up – may seem a bit unnecessary but trust me it can cause diastasis recti which you want to avoid or minimise.

Happy Pregnancy Exercising!

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