Pregnancy & exercise, BENEFITS, TIPS & GUIDELINES


Pregnancy and exercise

Without a doubt, we all know there are numerous potential health benefits for pregnant women who exercise, including better weight control, improved mood and maintenance of fitness levels.

Regular exercise during pregnancy can also decrease the risk of pregnancy-related complications.

However, it is important to modify or choose a suitable exercise program because pregnancy affects the body’s response to exercise.

Benefits of exercise during pregnancy

Exercising for 30 minutes on most, or all, days can benefit your health during pregnancy. Exercising for just 20 minutes, 3 or 4 days a week, is still beneficial, as well. The important thing is to be active and get your blood flowing.

Exercise during pregnancy offers many physical and emotional benefits. Physical activity may also help manage some symptoms of pregnancy and make you feel better, knowing you’re doing something good for yourself and your baby.

Some of the benefits of regular exercise throughout your pregnancy include:

  • Improves your mood – serves as a stress relief and increases your energy levels and circulation. This helps reduce your risk of anxiety and depression.

  • Improves posture, reducing back and pelvic pain.

  • Decreased risk of pregnancy complications such obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, bleeding, oversised babies, caesarean delivery, infections and blood clots in legs & lungs.

  • Helps prepare for the physical demands of labour and motherhood

  • Weight control and faster recuperation after labour. This will make it easier for you to get back in shape after your baby is born.

  • Helps to prevent and manage urinary incontinence

Exercise suggestions during pregnancy

Don’t exhaust yourself – a light to moderate exercise program should be the aim. You may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses. As a general rule, a light to moderate level should allow you to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you’re probably exercising too strenuously.

  • Aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.

  • If you were inactive before your pregnancy: Start with low-intensity exercises such as walking or swimming, and build up to moderate intensity activity. You can start with separate sessions of 15 minutes each, and build up to longer durations.

  • If you are healthy and you are not experiencing complications in your pregnancy, continue with your existing level of activity throughout pregnancy, or until it becomes uncomfortable for you to do so

Suggested exercise activities during pregnancy

Walking is usually safe for everyone, it is easy on your body and joints, and it doesn’t require extra equipment. It is also easy to fit into a busy schedule.

Other activities that are generally safe during pregnancy, even for beginners, include:

  • Swimming

  • Cycling – outdoors or on a stationary bicycle

  • Jogging

  • Muscle strengthening exercises, including pelvic floor exercises

  • Aquarobics

  • Yoga, stretching and other floor exercises

  • Pilates

  • Pregnancy exercise classes.

Exercising and changes associated with pregnancy

Something to remember, your body will undergo many changes during pregnancy. This will to a certain extent affect your ability to exercise or require you to modify your exercise routine, including:

  • Hormones such as relaxin loosen ligaments, which could increase your risk of joint injuries (such as sprains).

  • As pregnancy progresses, your weight will increase and you will experience changes in weight distribution and body shape. Your centre of gravity is shifted; this can affect your balance as your baby grows.

  • Pregnancy increases your resting heart rate; so don’t use your target heart rate to work out the intensity of your exercise.

  • Your blood pressure drops in the second trimester, so it is important to avoid rapid changes of position – from lying to standing and vice versa so you do not experience dizzy spells.  

Precautions when exercising during pregnancy

While most forms of exercise are safe, there are some exercises that involve positions and movements that may be uncomfortable or harmful to pregnant women.

  • Avoid raising your body temperature too high – for example, don’t soak in hot spas or exercise to the point of heavy sweating. Reduce your level of exercise on hot or humid days.

  • Don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion.

  • If weight training, choose low weights and medium to high repetitions – avoid lifting heavy weights altogether.

  • Perform controlled stretching and avoid over-extending.

  • Avoid exercise if you are ill or feverish.

  • Don’t increase the intensity of your sporting program while you are pregnant, and always work at less than 75 % of your maximum heart rate.

  • Be sure to wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes, as well as, a good supportive bra.

  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout

Exercises to avoid while pregnant

During pregnancy, avoid sports and activities with increased risk of, or characterised by:

  • Abdominal trauma or pressure – such as weightlifting

  • Contact or collision– such as martial arts, soccer, basketball and other competition sports

  • Hard projectile objects or striking implements – such as hockey, cricket or softball

  • Sports with a high risk of falling – such as downhill skiing, horse riding and skating

  • Extreme balance, coordination and agility – such as gymnastics

  • Significant changes in pressure – such as SCUBA diving

  • Extreme Heavy lifting

  • Supine exercise position (lying on your back) – the weight of the baby can slow the return of blood to the heart; some of these exercises can be modified by lying on your side

  • Wide squats or lunges.

If you’re not sure whether a particular activity is safe during pregnancy, check with your healthcare professional. 


Exercises for a fitter pregnancy

If you are pregnant, try to fit the exercises listed below into your daily routine. They will strengthen your muscles so that you can carry the extra weight of pregnancy. They’ll also make joints stronger, improve circulation, ease a backache and generally help you feel well. Pelvic floor exercises and pregnancy

1. Pelvic floor exercises

Your pelvic floor muscles are weakened during pregnancy and during birth (vaginal delivery), so it is extremely important to begin conditioning the pelvic floor muscles from the start of your pregnancy. 

To keep these muscles working well, make pelvic floor exercises part of your routine for the rest of your life. You can start during pregnancy and continue after birth.

  1. Sit and lean slightly forward with a straight back.

  2. Squeeze and lift the muscles as if you are trying to stop a wee.

  3. Hold the squeeze as you count to 8; relax for 8 seconds. If you can’t hold for 8, just hold as long as you can.

  4. Repeat as many as you can, about 8 to 12 squeezes. Repeat the whole thing 3 times.

  5. Keep breathing while exercising. Try not to tighten your buttocks

Read more on pelvic floor exercises here.

2. Stomach-strengthening exercises

As your baby gets bigger, you may find that the hollow in your lower back increases and this can give you a backache. This simple exercise can help strengthen stomach (abdominal) muscles and ease a backache.

  • Start in a box position (on all fours) with knees under hips, hands under shoulders, with fingers facing forward and abdominals lifted to keep your back straight.

  • Concentrate on drawing your belly button towards your spine.

  • Breathe out while pulling in your belly.

  • Hold the position and count to 10. Relax and breathe in.

  • Repeat 10 times, as many times a day as you are able.

I hope this guide has inspired all pregnant women out there to exercise during their pregnancy. Make it a commitment to exercise regularly. Keeping up a routine is easier on your body than long periods of sudden spurts of activity.

Team up with a friend and you’ll be more motivated to show up, plus you will get quality time with your friend while doing something important for your health and pregnancy.

Remember, being fit doesn’t have to mean a big time commitment or fancy equipment. You can workout anytime, anywhere! Lastly, always check with your doctor before starting this or any exercise program

If you need advice regarding exercise during pregnancy, please do not hesitate to make an appointment to see Dr.Gan here.

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