Exercise tips for pregnancy
Regular exercise during pregnancy can improve health, reduce the risk of excess weight gain and back pain, and it may make delivery easier.Moderate exercise during pregnancy may give a newborn a healthier start.
Exercise at any time can improve heart health and stamina, decrease fatigue and constipation, boost mood and energy levels, enhance sleep, and improve muscle strength.
A well-chosen exercise program can have the same benefits during pregnancy.
It is important to discuss any changes in exercise habits with a health care provider, to make sure you do the right kind of exercise at the right stage of pregnancy.
Fast facts about exercise during pregnancyHere are some facts about exercising during pregnancy. More detail is in the main article.
Some special exercises can help prepare for labor.
These carry little risk of injury, they benefit the entire body, and they can continue until delivery.
Brisk walking. If pre-pregnancy exercise levels were low, a quick stroll around the neighborhood is a good way to start.
This will provide a cardiovascular workout without too much impact on the knees and ankles. It can be done for free, almost anywhere, and at any time during pregnancy.
Safety tip: As pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity changes, and you can lose your sense of balance and coordination.
Choose smooth surfaces, avoid potholes, rocks, and other obstacles, and wear supportive footwear.
SwimmingSwimming and exercising in water give a better range of motion without putting pressure on the joints. The buoyancy offered by the water may offer some relief from the extra weight.
Swimming, walking in water, and aqua aerobics offer health benefits throughout pregnancy.
Safety tip: Choose a stroke that feels comfortable, and that does not strain or hurt your neck, shoulders, or back muscles, for example, breaststroke. A kickboard can help strengthen the leg and buttock muscles.
The bike helps support body weight, and, because it is stationary, the risk of falling is low.
Later in pregnancy, a higher handlebar may be more comfortable.
YogaPrenatal yoga classes keep the joints limber and help maintain flexibility.
Yoga strengthens muscles, stimulates blood circulation, and enhances relaxation. These may contribute to a healthy blood pressure during pregnancy.
The techniques learnt in yoga class can also help you to stay calm and in control during labor.
Safety tip: As pregnancy progresses, skip positions that could cause you to overbalance.
From the second semester, it is better to avoid poses that involve lying on the abdomen or flat on the back.
Lying on the back can cause the weight of the fetus and the uterus to put pressure on major veins and arteries and decrease blood flow to the heart.
It can be tempting to overstretch, as the hormone relaxin increases flexibility and joint mobility during pregnancy. Overstretching could lead to injury.
Low-impact aerobicsAerobic exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and helps maintain muscle tone. Low-impact aerobics excludes jumping, high kicks, leaps, or fast running.
In low-impact exercise, one foot should stay on the ground at all times.
Compared with high-impact aerobics, the low-impact option:
Some aerobics classes are designed especially for pregnant women. This can be a good way to meet other pregnant women, as well as exercising with an instructor who is trained to meet your specific needs.
Women who already attend a regular aerobics class should let the instructor know that they are pregnant so they can modify exercises and advise about suitable movements.
Preparing for labor: Squatting and pelvic tiltsBrisk walking instead of jogging can reduce pressure on the lower back.The American Pregnancy Association recommends some exercises specifically for pregnancy, as they prepare the body for labor and delivery.
Squatting: During labor, squatting may help to open the pelvis, so it may be a good idea to practice during pregnancy.
BenefitsExercise during pregnancy can provide great benefit for a mother and child.During pregnancy, exercise should aim to:
Research shows that when pregnant women exercise, fetal heart rate is lower. Newborns may also have a healthier birth weight, a lower fat mass, improved stress tolerance, and advanced neurobehavioral maturation.
TipsWomen who were exercising regularly before pregnancy, and who are healthy during pregnancy, should be able to continue exercising as before, with slight changes depending on the trimester.
Women who have not been exercising before pregnancy will benefit from taking up a low-intensity program and gradually move to a higher activity level.
Exercise is recommended for 20 to 30 minutes each day, on most days. Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy if done with caution.
Tips for healthy exercise during pregnancyPhysical changes during pregnancy create extra demands on the body, so it is important to exercise with care.
How to exercise safelySwimming whilst pregnant is an effective, safe form of exercise.A few tips can help you stay safe when exercising.
Activities may change as time goes on, because of bodily changes that occur.
Who should not exercise?Exercise is rarely harmful, but anyone with a medical condition, such as asthma, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, or a pregnancy-related condition should speak to a health care provider first.
Exercise may not be advised if there is:
When to stopStop exercising and consult a health care provider if you:
The preceding was adapted from Medical News Today Newsletter.
Petrina Duncan, Obstetrician, Gynaecologist, and mother. Writes about events, news issues and health issues.