How much exercise can I still do?
At the risk of being blunt, too many people use pregnancy as an excuse. An excuse to eat for two. An excuse to spend any free time on the couch. An excuse to avoid activities that are remotely outside of your comfort zone. The people around you will want to become your closest advisors. And, for the most part, their advice will be holding you back.
And then there is the other type of pregnant woman. The one who wants to keep on training no matter what. You are able, and encouraged, to stay active right up until the day you give birth. The solution is to find the best balance, which will be very individual. These guidelines are designed to help you find the right level of training for you and your pregnancy.
Here are the activities that you should continue (or commence):
- If you have always exercised, then keep going. If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, start with short walks (about 15 minutes) and gentle abdominal strengthening, and then increase the amount you exercise week-by-week.
- Pay more attention to the timing of your meals. Eat something small 2-3 hours before you exercise, and then eat again within the hour following exercise.
- Get familiar with the RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) scale – this is your key to monitoring exercise during pregnancy. See the scale at the end of this article – a rating of 12-14 is appropriate for most pregnant women.
- Keep your training balanced. You’ll be at your best if you do a combination of fitness training, strength training and postural work each week.
- Give pre-natal specific exercises a go. Either in a group setting, or by following a programme. You are able to do most exercises that a non-pregnant person would do, but there are additional exercises that are particularly beneficial during pregnancy.
- Exercise for 30-45 minutes most days of the week. Exercising for up to 60 minutes is fine. Endurance sessions of 60 minutes or more need to be at a lower intensity.
And a few things to avoid……
- Ignore people (other than medical professionals) who tell you that you should be resting. You’re not sick, you’re pregnant. Very few pregnant women need individualised exercise prescription – check with your doctor or midwife if you are unsure.
- Avoid situations where your body struggles to cool itself down. For example, avoid exercising outside on very humid days and make sure you sit near a fan in a stuffy spin class. This is another reason to avoid endurance exercise – your body will heat up more over time.
- Avoid heavy lifting. You can still do resistance training, but don’t use excessively heavy weights. From the 2nd trimester, do not exercise your legs while you’re lying on your back.
- Avoid sports with a high risk of falling, like skiing, surfing and gymnastics. Remember that your balance will get worse as you get bigger.
- Avoid all sports that have a risk of collision or a blow to the belly, including sports that are technically non-contact, like netball, soccer and basketball. This is more important beyond the first trimester, when the foetus is too big to be protected by your pelvis.
No matter how invincible you’re feeling, stop exercise if you experience:
- High heart rate, dizziness, headache, contractions, bleeding or fluid leakage, nausea, excessive shortness of breath, back or pelvic pain, decreased foetal movements, severe and rapid swelling of your face, hands or ankles.
- These symptoms don’t necessarily mean that you can never exercise again. They simply mean that you should stop immediately, and then speak to your doctor or midwife before you exercise again.
To make sure that you finish reading this article feeling positive and ready to get moving, here are some of the benefits of regular exercise during pregnancy:
1.Maintain strength and fitness, reducing the likelihood of postural pain.
2.Retain a sense of self – you are still you, not just a vessel for growing a baby.
3.Control excessive weight gain, reducing the likelihood of secondary complications.
4.Prevention and treatment of diabetes & pre-ecclampsia.
5.Improved labour – women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to have shorter and less complicated labours and there is less evidence of foetal stress.
6.Better baby weight (when exercise is moderate – excessive exercise can lead to a reduced birth weight).
Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale
7Very, very light
19Very, very hard