So, you’ve finally got to the point where you feel comfortable with your body. The kids are off your hands, you’re back at the gym, and you are looking and feeling great. Then, wham! – You’re pregnant again! This is a story I hear often. Pregnancy really throws a spanner in the works, doesn’t it? You start to worry about ballooning weight, bulging butt cheeks and stretch marks, and after all that hard work too. But being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to give up on looking good. Not at all. Gone are the days when being pregnant made you an invalid. Exercising when pregnant is no longer frowned upon, in fact it is now encouraged. This isn’t the best time to try and lose weight, but it’s important to look after your body during your pregnancy and exercise is one way to do that.
A good pregnancy exercise regime will help to control your weight, strengthen your back and your pelvic floor muscles, and release endorphins that make you feel good, and we all need that.
The Benefits of Exercising While Pregnant
Exercising while pregnant can do wonders for your body. It can help prepare you for childbirth by increasing your muscle strength and endurance. It also promotes a sense of well-being that is beneficial to your baby, and will make it easier to get back into shape afterwards.
Staying active during pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean smashing yourself in every session. Gentle exercise during pregnancy releases a hormone called relaxin which loosens your joints in preparation for delivery, but exhaustive exercise can be harmful to so your child, so you need to take care with the choice of exercise and pay attention to the needs of your body and your baby. Engaging the services of a personal trainer would be a great idea, making sure you get the right amount of exercise, and the right type of exercise, without overdoing it and without causing too much stress for you or your baby.
Exercise gets your heart rate up, pumping more blood around your body and making you feel great. It keeps you supple, flexible and agile, preparing you for the ordeal of childbirth. But while many activities such as running and weight training are fine in the beginning, you may need to modify your regime as your pregnancy progresses. For example, deep squats really aren’t recommended with a big tummy. It’s also best to avoid strenuous sporting activities such as cycling, roller-blading, skiing and jumping on a trampoline. It is important to avoid activities that involve sudden changes of position, and your blood pressure may drop during your second trimester. It’s just common sense really.
Fight pregnancy fatigue.
Low-level tiredness plagues many women during the first 3 months of their pregnancy, and again in the last 3 months. It might sound strange but sometimes getting too much rest can actually make you feel more drowsy. While you should never push yourself too hard when you’re pregnant — and especially when you’re feeling fatigued — a little exercise can make a big difference to your energy levels.
Conquer pregnancy constipation.
An active body encourages active bowels. Some women swear by a brisk 30-minute walk to keep them regular. Others say that even a ten-minute stroll can help get things moving.
Relieve back pain.
Back pain affects at least half of all pregnant women. Your best defence against this is a strong set of abs. Do simple pregnancy-safe exercises to strengthen your abs to give your back the support it needs. Even a short walk can help relieve back pain.
Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, giving you a natural high. This makes you feel good and reduces anxiety.
Make a healthy baby.
Babies of mothers who exercise during pregnancy are born at healthier weights, are better able to withstand the trauma of labour and delivery (they are less stressed by it), and recover from the stresses of birth more quickly.
Have an easier labour (possibly).
While exercising during pregnancy can’t guarantee that you’ll sail through childbirth, mothers who exercise tend to have shorter labours and are less likely to need intervention.
Speed your recovery.
Exercising during pregnancy will help to keep your level of fitness up. This means a faster recovery after you give birth. It also means you’ll find it easier to lose those pregnancy pounds after you give birth, restoring your figure and helping you squeeze into those tight jeans again.
One of the easiest, low-impact cardio exercises for pregnant women is walking. Walking keeps you fit without jarring your knees and ankles. It is safe throughout the nine months of pregnancy, and it can easily be built into your day-to-day schedule.
Jogging and running…
Jogging is a great way to increase your heart rate get that blood racing around your body. Just be sensible and don’t go running long distance or on a hot summer day.
Some experts say that swimming is the best and safest exercise for pregnant women. Swimming is provides excellent cardiovascular exercise and works large muscle groups. It also allows pregnant women to feel weightless despite all the extra weight they are carrying.
Swimming isn’t the only way to enjoy the weightless sensation of being in the water while exercising. Many women find aqua classes fun and worthwhile. Exercising while standing in water is gentle on the body, and it can help lessen any swelling in the legs, which can be a real problem later in pregnancy.
Yoga and Stretches…
Yoga and stretching can help maintain muscle tone and keep you flexible with little if any impact on your joints. However, you may have to augment a yoga regime by walking a few times a week to give your heart a workout. Be careful not to over stretch; an increase in the amount of relaxin in your body means you will be more supple and more flexible, just be careful not to push too far with the stretch and not hold it too long
Pilates works primarily on your core and stabilizer muscles. It’s a form of exercise that aids flexibility and core strength. It also helps strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which need working out as much as any other muscle but are forgotten. These muscles can weaken during pregnancy, so, they will need some attention. Many pilates exercises are performed in a “hands and knees” position, and this is an ideal position for pregnancy. It helps take the pressure off your back and pelvis, and towards the end of your pregnancy it can help to position your baby ready for delivery.
If weight training is already part of your exercise routine, there really is no reason to stop. You may need to avoid using heavier weights and refrain from certain exercises, and that’s where the help and advice of a personal trainer can be useful, but weight training is a very good way to stay healthy and keep your muscles in shape. Try not to exhaust yourself too much, and remember to cut back on the intensity of your training as your pregnancy progresses.
Dancing is a wonderful form of exercise; it can really get your heart pumping, work a variety of muscle groups and, most importantly, make you feel great. If you feel up to it, there’s no reason why you can’t keep dancing throughout your pregnancy, so long as it’s not too strenuous. Remember to be careful of sudden changes of direction and avoid any dances that involve flips and splits, but otherwise just feel free to let loose and enjoy yourself.
The good thing about joining an aerobics class is that it’s a consistent time slot when you know you’ll get some exercise. If you sign up for a class specifically designed for pregnant women, you’ll get to enjoy the camaraderie of others just like you, and you can feel reassured that each movement has been deemed safe for you and the baby.