It's one of those questions that niggles the mind of the newly pregnant: ‘Is it safe to exercise now that I'm pregnant?'
Because irrespective of whether you were a cross-country skier or a couch potato pre-pregnancy, we all want to be as fit and healthy as possible during our pregnancy for the sake of our baby.
So, what's the verdict? Is keeping fit during pregnancy allowed? Or are you forbidden from working out now that you have a little bun in the oven?
Let's find out.
Is It Safe To Exercise While Pregnant?
The great news is that according to the Better Health Channel, unless you experience any complications, you should be able to exercise during most of your pregnancy.
It is still recommended that you speak to your GP or healthcare professional regularly to be guided on the level and type of exercise suitable for you (as each pregnancy is different), but overall exercising during pregnancy is recommended, safe and offers a multitude of benefits.
Benefits Of Exercising During Pregnancy
Just like keeping fit pre-pregnancy boasts a range of health and wellbeing benefits, exercising during your pregnancy offers numerous advantages too.
Sports Medicine Australia advises that maintaining a regular exercise routine during pregnancy leads to greater control over weight, as well as boosts mood and allows the mother to sustain her existing fitness levels.
A study presented by the Faculty of Sciences for Physical Activity and Sport at the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, recently revealed that mothers who exercise regularly during their pregnancy could significantly decrease and prevent the risk of a caesarean birth.
The Deccan Herald also reported that mums-to-be who exercised throughout their pregnancy had shorter labours and were less likely to require medical assistance during their labour. Exercising during pregnancy also allows the baby to have access to improved blood flow, oxygen and other nutrients.
Suggested Physical Activities During Pregnancy
Experts suggest that you enjoy between 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day, on most days of the week. The level of exertion that you're aiming for is ‘moderate' and should not exceed 45 minutes. If you're exercising at a low level, you can continue for longer.
Better Health suggest trying some of the following ‘pregnancy-safe' physical activities:
- Swimming (great for reducing the risk of overheating and supporting the belly)
- Riding a bike (you can choose from outdoor cycling or a stationary bike)
- Any exercise in water
- Specific exercise classes catered to pregnant women
You can also run and do strength training in moderation provided you regularly did these activities pre-pregnancy.
Activities to avoid include:
- Rollerblading or roller-skating
- Any form of contact or competitive sport
Words Of Caution
It's important to remain aware and conscious of the changes taking place in your body during pregnancy and how these may impact your regular exercise routine.
During pregnancy, as your hormones change, your weight increases and your heart rate rises, your ability to exercise will alter.
To avoid any issues, Sports Medicine Australia advises watching out for the following symptoms either during or after exercise:
- Increased heart rate
- Feeling dizzy, short of breath or faint
- Headaches or nausea
- Uterine contractions or vaginal bleeding
- Leakage of amniotic fluid
- Pain or discomfort in the back or pelvis
- Reduced movements from your baby
- Swollen ankles, face and hands
If any of these symptoms are experienced, you should cease exercise and call your medical professional.
ABC Health & Wellbeing suggests that you take the following precautions during your exercise:
- Try not to raise your core body temperature too high as you will overheat
- While it's natural for your heart rate to increase throughout your pregnancy, if you spike your heart rate too high during pregnancy you can limit the blood supply to your baby
- After the first 13 weeks of your pregnancy, you should not lay on your back as this could decrease your blood pressure
- Be careful of sprains and falls, as your body releases a hormone that literally relaxes your body, making you more prone to injuries
You should speak to your medical practitioner regularly about the exercise you're doing on a daily and weekly basis.
And as a final point, listen to your body. During this extraordinary time, your body should be your central guiding point. It will show you how much is too much and what is needed from you. Trust your body and allow your natural instincts to take over.
Please note: before commencing any exercise program or activity, we recommend speaking to your doctor or healthcare professional.