So this week I’m looking at health & fitness during pregnancy.
There are actually huge benefits of exercise during pregnancy –helping to minimize aches and constipation, it will help you sleep better, as well as lowering your risk of diabetes and depression. You may even end up having a shorter, less complicated labor and building good workout habits during your pregnancy will help you get your body back faster after delivery too.
What exercise you can and should do, largely depends on your current activity and fitness levels and what trimester you are in – and you should always get approval from your GP or Pre-Natal team beforehand.
If you were really active before pregnancy, then try to stay as active as possible. If you weren’t – now is a good time to start! Beginners should start with just 15 mins of low intensity exercise and gradually build up to 30 mins moderate intensity, 3-4 times a week.
If you have access to prenatal exercise classes then make sure to sign up for them – not only are the workouts modified for pregnancy, but you also get to make some new friends with the other mum’s to be.
It’s fine to keep going to your favourite classes right up to the third trimester – however only as long as you pay attention to how your body feels, limit your intensity and stay within the normal range of motion. In terms of intensity use a 1-10 scale of Perceived Exertion (with 1 being really easy and 10 being maximum effort) and try to aim for between 3 and 5 on the scale and always make sure the class instructor or your Personal Trainer knows you’re pregnant as that way they can advise you if you are safe to continue and will provide variations and alternatives.
Highly choreographed classes like Step or Combat aren’t the best choices for expectant women since they require quick direction changes and a heightened sense of balance – so can risk pulling on the stomach or increase risk of falling. Other things to avoid would be Hot Yoga (as it increases your risk of overheating), Contact Sports (for obvious reasons!), or HIIT and heavy lifting. The hormonal changes in your body can make your joints and tendons more elastic – so avoid overloading (either in terms of speed or weight) to avoid damaging the joints.
Some great classes that you can include are Pilates or Yoga (avoiding any of the exercises on your back – always keep your head above your belly after first trimester), water bases classes like Aqua Aerobics or swimming are brilliant as the water supports your growing belly and is low impact.
In Terms of resistance training – try to use the weight training machines rather than free-weights but again avoid any machine or exercise that puts pressure on belly such as the seated row and abdominal crunch and avoid raising your arms overhead (to avoid excessive curvature on the spine) and if using a bench always have an incline.
When it comes to food make sure that you load up on the big 5 nutrients – Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Zinc and fibre, as well as Omega 3 Fatty acids – ideally these should come from natural sources and you should also increase your water intake. When pregnant your body loses hydration quicker – so make sure to drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated helps prevent headaches, kidney stones, dizziness and common pregnancy complaints such as constipation and haemorrhoids, but also helps avoid pre-term contractions. You know you’re well hydrated when your urine is light yellow to clear.
Finally make sure that you don’t “Eat for Two”! Half of all woman gain too much weight during pregnancy using it almost as an excuse to eat as much and whatever they want. Research suggests that when mums-to-be gain excess weight, their babies then have a higher risk of obesity later in life, plus the mothers then tend to retain that extra weight after giving birth.
It’s crucial therefore to base your pregnancy weight-gain “target”, on your height and pre-pregnancy weight but as a guide – if you’re carrying a single baby, you would need approximately 340 extra calories per day in the second trimester and 450 extra in the third trimester.
To find out what’s appropriate for you and some more ideas on exercises you can do or need to avoid – have a look at FitPregnancy.com which is a invaluable source of information covering everything health & fitness related during and after pregnancy and is highly commended.