Pregnant and want to keep up your fitness routine? We show you what’s good for you and what to avoid
How often should I exercise in pregnancy?
Doctors suggest that pregnant women need around 30 minutes’ exercise per day. Whether that’s a brisk walk, a swim or water aerobics, make sure it’s something you enjoy and try for at least this amount of time – you can of course do more!
If you’re working, perhaps walk to work through a park, or take a swim at lunchtime. If you have been very active up until you got pregnant, there’s no need to scale down your fitness routine but do avoid certain activities – see out list below.
How do I start exercising?
If you have not formerly been very active, now’s the time to add some exercise into your daily routine. Speak to your doctor or midwife about what’s best for you and then work up to 30 minutes per day – more if you enjoy it. Try to find an activity that you really like, so you will see it as a pleasure, not a penance. Be realistic about what you can achieve.
The benefits of pregnancy exercise
Why should you add exercise into your daily life when you’re pregnant? There are several benefits to keeping active.
- It will increase your energy levels
- The increased flow of blood releases endorphins that will brighten your mood – and may help you avoid depression or anxiety
- The work you do will improve muscle tone and help with your posture – hopefully, to avoid backache and aches and pains
- It reduces constipation
- You are less likely to gain too much weight
- It helps you have a lower resting heart rate, which can protect against cardiovascular problems in later life
- It improves your circulation, so you may avoid becoming bloated and having swollen ankles
- It may help to prevent or treat gestational diabetes
- And the most important thing to know; improving your overall fitness and muscle tone will be a huge help with the process of labour and birth – and help you get back in shape afterwards.
- Babies whose mothers exercise have lower resting heart rates1 and their hearts pump blood more efficiently2
- Your baby is less likely to be overweight later in life if your weight is stable
- Your child may perform better at sports later than those whose mothers didn’t exercise
- Your child may be more intelligent
- A fit mother who has a less complicated delivery means that there may not be problems for the baby associated with a long and difficult labour
Best exercise for pregnancy
Gentle jogging or running (but only if you were doing so before you got pregnant)
Aerobics and water aerobics
Spinning or indoor cycling
Gentle weight lifting
Housework and gardening!
Exercise to avoid during pregnancy
Contact sports such as boxercise, karate and judo
Any sport where you might fall or bump into another player (volley ball, football etc.)
Water skiing or scuba diving
Can I still do abdominal exercise in pregnancy?
Given the current emphasis on ‘core’ exercises, can you still perform abdominal exercises while pregnant?
While you shouldn’t strive to create a strong core while pregnant, you can maintain muscle tone you have achieved before pregnancy. Doing so will help to support your internal organs and to avoid backache, as your abs take some of the pregnancy weight. You should check that your abdominal muscles have not separated (lying down flat, raise your head and shoulders and feel the centre of your bump above and below the navel. If you can feel a gap, you may have a separation of the muscles – check with your health professional.
You should avoid crunches and lying on your back – especially in the third trimester. You can try doing standing crunches, pelvic tilts, stretching out alternate arms and legs while on all fours, knee lifts while lying on your side and other gentle movements. Check with a fitness instructor or yoga teacher who has experience of pregnancy.
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