Top 10 tips for safe exercise in pregnancy
To help you stay fit and strong on your pregnancy journey, personal trainer and coach Todd Mantle has some tips on exercising safely.
1 Get the all clear from your healthcare provider
Before beginning any exercise program talk to your doctor or midwife to get the all clear first. If you have trained regularly before becoming pregnant it’s likely that resuming your fitness routine with some small adjustments will be fine, but to be on the safe side and ensure you have no complications that could put you or your baby at risk, I would always recommend booking in a quick appointment with your GP or Lead Maternity Carer.
2 Know which sports to steer clear of
There are plenty of sports that you may feel are relatively safe, but which should now be avoided once pregnant. Sports such as touch rugby, netball, hockey, and horse riding, to name a few, are not recommended as you may risk a collision or being bumped off balance, and obviously you should discontinue any contact-based sports. Bear in mind, your body will be more susceptible to sprains and strains during pregnancy as your joints and ligaments begin to soften and loosen due to the increased level of the hormone relaxin in your body. Relaxin is produced to help prepare your pelvic joints for childbirth.
Some recommended sports are: swimming, yoga, low impact aerobics, dance, resistance training, cycling, brisk walking.
3 Wear suitable clothing
Starting from the ground up, when it comes to athletic trainers make sure you choose a pair that supports your feet well and fit properly. If you encounter mild foot swelling during your pregnancy you may have to consider purchasing a new pair of trainers that are more comfortable during this time. Make sure your maternity bra offers good support and using a belly band can add welcome support to any expectant mother wanting to continue with their regular exercise regime. Wear breathable clothing and dress in layers as it is an easy way to regulate and control your temperature; simply peel off a layer once you’ve warmed up or if you’re feeling too hot, and then replace a layer during your cool down.
Pay attention to your temperature when exercising, as overheating can lead to exhaustion and other issues, which isn’t beneficial for you or your baby.
4 Train safe and smart
When it comes to training don’t overdo it, learn to listen to your body. If at any time during exercise something hurts or you feel fatigued, dizzy, faint, lightheaded or clammy, stop exercising and cool down. Measuring your heart rate can also be a good way to evaluate your workout intensity. To measure your pulse, place the index and middle fingers on the underside of your opposite wrist below the base of your thumb. You should feel a light throbbing – this is your pulse. Use a clock or watch with a second hand to count the number of beats you feel for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by six to calculate your heart rate or Beats Per Minute. Beginners or those who are unfit should train to within a range of 130-145 BPM, with fitter women aiming for closer to 140-155 BPM. Another simple way to measure your workout intensity is “The talk test” – if you can’t maintain a normal conversation while training you might be working too hard, and be aware that the little person growing inside you needs oxygen and energy too.
5 Warm up properly
An effective warm-up is an essential part of any exercise program. It is a great tool to prepare your body for what lies ahead. It helps to elevate your heart rate slowly and in turn increases blood flow to working muscles, tendons and ligaments, helping to reduce the risk of injury considerably and the likelihood of post workout aches and pains. A simple warm up is a brisk five minute walk followed by dynamic stretching. (Stretching with movement.)
6 Keep hydrated
Staying hydrated is an important part of any exercise programme, but is even more crucial when pregnant. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, as this is not an accurate measure of hydration. I would recommend drinking around 400-500mls of water or fluids one to two hours before exercising and a further 300-400mls during your workout. Continue to sip after your workout too, to ensure you’ve replaced any fluids lost. Over the period of the day pregnant mothers are advised to consume around 2.4 litres of fluids, but this doesn’t have to be just water. Fruit juice, soya milk, milk, vegetable juice or coconut water all contribute to that total, even tea and coffee. Be advised though that you should limit your intake of caffeinated drinks such as tea, green tea, coffee and sodas as studies have linked a high caffeine diet with an increase of miscarriage in pregnant women.
7 Avoid exercising flat on your back after 16 weeks of pregnancy
After your first trimester avoid lying flat on your back – this applies to relaxing and exercise. For many, this position may cause nausea and dizziness. This is because your growing baby is making your uterus heavy and being on your back places added pressure on the vena cava, a major blood vessel. In turn, this may reduce blood flow to your heart, your brain, uterus and, potentially, your growing baby.
8 Do pelvic floor exercises
During pregnancy a lot of pressure is placed on your pelvic floor muscles. This layer of muscles supports the uterus and helps you maintain bowel and bladder control, so it is very important to keep them strong and intact. Pelvic floor exercises are recommended at least every second day or on a daily basis and are a great way to reduce the risk of any problems that may arise with bladder and bowel control after childbirth.
9 Exercise regularly
On the whole, women who exercise regularly during their pregnancy have more energy, a reduced risk of back pain, improved mood and will be more prepared for labour. It is also more likely that they will have a faster recovery and return to their pre-pregnancy body faster than those who didn’t exercise. As a simple guideline I would recommend working towards 30 minutes of daily exercise if achievable. Be smart though and rest when your body tells you to.
10 Cool down
At the end of each workout take the time to cool down slowly. Try walking a few lengths of the gym, or up and down the hall a few times, followed by having a light stretch and relax. This five minute cool down will help reduce the onset of sore muscles and allow your heart rate to get back to normal.
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