Whether you started your pregnancy off as a fitness guru or a Netflix queen, there are plenty of reasons to fit exercise into your daily routine. Don’t know where to start? It doesn’t —as long as you get moving!
According to the guidelines set out by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, healthy pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity (the equivalent of brisk walking). The college also encourages exercise for sedentary women, as well as those with medical or obstetric complications but only after medical clearance.
Women with uncomplicated pregnancies can—and should—engage in physical activities before, during, and after pregnancy.
What are the health benefits of being active during pregnancy?
There are several physiological benefits for continuing to move throughout your pregnancy:
- Reduced risk of excessive gestational weight gain
- Reduced length of labour
- Reduced risk of conditions like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth
When it comes to your psychological state, there are benefits too. These include:
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced depression
- Reduced fatigue
- Reduced stress
What are the dangers of exercising while with child?
Fact: Physical activity in pregnancy has minimal risks and has been shown to benefit most women.
That said, you’ll need to pay attention to telltale warnings that will signal when you should stop exercising.
If you experience any vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headache, chest pain, muscle weakness, calf pain, decreased fetal movement or amniotic fluid leakage, you should terminate physical activity until you get medical clearance from your healthcare practitioner.
How might my changing body affect my exercise routine?
Your body will undergo an amazing shift as it grows another human being. It’s important you recognize how this change could impact your activities.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Weight gain and a shift in your centre of gravity can lead to an increase of force in your joints. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also increase joint laxity, which can put you at a higher risk for injury.
- Your blood volume, heart rate, stroke volume and cardiac output are usually greater during pregnancy and your enlarged uterus can obstruct diaphragm movement. So you might require higher cardiorespiratory effort and a decrease in the performance you’re used to.
Given how your body will change throughout the pregnancy, there’s no doubt that you’ll need to adapt your activity to accommodate your changing body to keep both you and baby safe.
What physical activity can I participate in and how much can I do?
The activities you partake in during your pregnancy should include the same elements as non-pregnant women.
DO: Exercise 30 minutes a day (or three 10 minute walks) on most, if not all, days of the week. This is the recommended frequency of exercise.
DO: Engage in aerobic exercise. This can consist of activities that use large muscle groups for example, walking, jogging/running, dance, swimming, cycling, and rowing.
Warning: Aerobic or recreational activities that can increase the risk of falls such as skiing, gymnastics, and horseback riding. These could result trauma and should come with cautionary advice for most pregnant women. The same applies to activities with high potential for contact such as hockey or soccer.
DO: Incorporate resistance exercises into your routine. Relatively low weights with multiple reps—lifted through a dynamic range of motion—can be safe and effective. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that intensity should be 60 to 90 percent of your maximal heart rate. If you didn’t participate in regular exercise before pregnancy, aim for 60 to 70 percent of your maximal heart rate (equivalent to a 4 or 5 on the perceived exertion scale, or RPE). If you were fit and exercised regularly before your pregnancy, then consider aiming for 70 to 90 per cent of your maximal heart rate (equivalent to a 7 on the RPE).
DO: Make sure you’re properly nourished and hydrated before you go for a run or do your zumba class. Enjoying a yogurt, some trail mix or a nice juicy peach before you hit the road will help boost your energy and blood sugar. And when you’ve finished up your exercise activity, be sure to drink a refreshing glass of water.
The most important takeaway for pregnant women is this: Listen to your body and exercise smart!
If you need some advice on how to modify your exercises or activities while you’re pregnant, get in touch with us. We’re happy to help!