How much should you do? And for how long? What is too much? And is there such a thing as not enough? Let’s help you navigate through this often-confusing part of pregnancy.
Like most things related to pregnancy, use your common sense first. Exercising to the point where you can’t hold a conversation and breathe easily is of course too much! So it’s about choosing a safe and sensible exercise program which is right for you and your growing baby.
We all have different levels of fitness during our pregnancies due to our overall general health. So remember, just because your friend did aerobics until the day she gave birth, doesn’t mean you should be able to as well. Choosing the right exercise will depend on pregnancy related physical and psychological changes as well as normal pregnancy aches and pains. Also keep in mind that all pregnant women need extra rest. Some pregnancies require a lot more rest than others. Ask Dr van der Griend if you’re unsure whether you are overdoing it or not.
To help choose the right program for you, it is helpful to consider the following:
Hormones are largely responsible for the changes in our body during pregnancy. Breast development, uterine growth, weight increases as well as nausea, indigestion and constipation. Digestion is also effected as the growing baby pushes on your stomach. Slowing down of gut activity may understandably make you feel less inclined to exercise.
Cardio vascular changes
Your internal organs are already doing their own work out! Your heart and lungs are working harder keeping both you and your baby alive. Your heart will pump an extra litre of blood around your body during pregnancy. (No wonder some us feel especially tired!) Breathing can also be difficult, in particular during the last trimester as the uterus grows and added pressure is placed on the organs.
It is natural for women to gain weight during their pregnancies due to the babies development, growth of uterus and the increase in blood supply and breast tissue. This extra weight may place stress on the joints and especially your back. The increase in body size can also make some exercise, like jogging, uncomfortable. Your centre of gravity can be affected, this can interfere with your balance and co-ordination, especially in the second half of your pregnancy.
Yes the good old pelvic floor will have an added load placed on it during your pregnancy. It also not only plays an important role for our bladder and bowel control but also for our lower backs. It is helping to support our babies all day so strain and weakening of the muscle is occurring. Exercise involving vigorous jumping for example may become ‘interesting’ and perhaps better avoided!
It is important to avoid over heating. Pregnant women’s core temperature increases during pregnancy. We know it is beneficial to exercise while pregnant, but not to point of feeling hot and sweaty.
No matter what type of exercise you choose- remember:
Do not overheat or dehydrate which is most likely doing cardio workouts. Carry water wherever you go. Eat a small amount before you exercise, having a large meal may make you feel uncomfortable.
Adapt class exercises from standing to sitting position especially if you are experiencing any changes in blood pressure, nausea or back pain.
Be conscious of your posture, remember joints and ligaments loosen and the body’s range of movement and centre of gravity may extend further than normal, putting strain on those ligaments.
If you have already been exercising then you may feel able to keep doing your normal classes for a while. It’s also never to late to start!
How long should I do:
If you’re doing nothing at the moment, a walk around the block is a good start and work up from there. If you enjoy doing hours of exercise, just keep it moderate and be sensible. To work out what heart rate is too much, Sports Medicine Australia recommends using the Borgs rating of perceived exertion scale, which you can calculate at www.sma.org.au.
So now let’s use all this knowledge and choose an exercise which suits you. Here are a few ideas:
Group exercise programs
Visit your local gym or fitness centre and see what classes they have to offer. They can be fun and motivational and can help you commit to regular attendance. Aqua Aerobics, Pilates and Fit Ball classes are good to consider. Stick to small classes or individual sessions for maximum safety.
Swimming is a great option. It can help reduce swelling in the ankles and legs and decrease stress on joints. All the while it is increasing muscle tone while not being weight bearing. With the weather warming up, if you live near a beach pool, a little bit of Vitamin D from the sun will also be beneficial. Relaxing laps is the way to go and don’t forget to rehydrate even though you’re in the water!
It helps get the blood pumping and is kinder on the joints than jogging. Jogging can also be problematic as your centre of gravity can be affected so your balance and co-ordination may be off, especially during the second half of your pregnancy. If you want to ramp the walk, add hills and lightweights, up to 1 kg is plenty. Think of the time of day that you may go for a walk, early morning or late afternoon are ideal as the weather is cooler.
Find a Yoga School with pregnancy classes. The slow deep breathing increases the absorption of oxygen and a release of carbon dioxide. This results in a calming of the nervous system, which is great for you and your baby. As well as improves flexibility, Yoga can reduce stress and muscle tension and help to improve quality of your sleep, which can be hard to reach during pregnancy and even harder when the baby comes! There are plenty of pregnancy-friendly yoga classes, check out www. yogababes.com as one example.
Perhaps a combination of a couple of these exercise options might be right for you. Focusing on your health and well -being is a great part of pregnancy, so remember; spending time on yourself is also spending time for your baby!