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Exercise in Pregnancy: Is it Advisable?

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 25 Mar 2011 | comments*Discuss
 
Pregnancy Exercise Pre-pregnancy

Finding out that you’re expecting a baby doesn’t mean that you have to give up keeping fit, in fact staying fit and active while you’re pregnant can have beneficial effects for you and your baby – as well as making pregnancy and birth easier on your body.

Some women say that when they are pregnant they feel full of energy and so exercising while they are expecting is no problem to them whatsoever, especially if they’ve been active leading up to the pregnancy. If you’re not one of the lucky ones, though, it does pay to try and increase or at least maintain activity levels so that you keep muscles and joints supple and your body in good condition. It’s also true that regular exercise may help boost your energy levels and strengthen your immune system.

Why Exercise in Pregnancy?

There’s even more reason to want to keep fit while you’re pregnant as regular exercise helps to improve your muscle tone, strength and stamina - all really good for helping a woman’s body cope with the increasing demands that will be put onto her body during pregnancy. Not to mention the normal pregnancy weight gain, which can be an average of two stone. If you keep your fitness levels up while you’re pregnant, you could find it a little easier to get your pre-pregnancy fitness levels back once baby has been born. Other pregnancy benefits include helping to reduce pregnancy-related constipation, circulation problems and fatigue.

How Often Should You Exercise in Pregnancy?

The best way to approach exercise in pregnancy is to try and do something every day, and keep active overall, rather than set yourself punishing fitness targets just so that you fit into your pre-baby jeans after the birth.

If you’re already exercising regularly when you find out that you’re pregnant, there’s no need to change your daily routine. Just carry on with usual exercise, whether it’s a regular gym class or just walking to work and back again, for as long as it feels comfortable to you. If you’ve not been active, don’t overdo it, or start any new fitness routines without asking advice from your doctor or a gym professional about what’s suitable. Pregnancy isn’t a great time to be starting a new fitness regime but having said that, it’s a good time to start incorporating activity into your daily life in preparation for the arrival of your new baby. Even if it’s just walking, gardening or something not too strenuous, the key is to keep active.

As your pregnancy advances, you might find that you need to slow down a little, as pregnancy itself can put a great deal of strain on a woman’s body.

Top Tips for Pregnancy Exercise

  • Remember that it doesn’t have to be strenuous to be good for you
  • Keep in mind your pre-pregnancy fitness levels and don’t suddenly decide to become a gym bunny when you’ve only ever been a channel surfer.
  • Don't let yourself get overheated while you’re exercising as this isn’t good for your baby. Wear loose clothes and drink lots of water to stay cool and hydrated.
  • Avoid putting too much strain on your joints and ligaments. You’re more likely to injure yourself while you’re pregnant, as your body produces a hormone called relaxin to make your joints and ligaments looser in preparation for the birth.
  • Listen to what your body is telling you. Early in pregnancy it’s quite common to feel dizzy and over tired, and later on you can find it harder to balance as your centre of gravity shifts with the growing baby.
  • It’s not advisable to take part in contact sport, and common sense to also avoid any sport that could lead to a fall, such as horse riding.
  • Don’t overdo it in an attempt to avoid gaining baby weight – you’re supposed to put on weight while you’re pregnant!
  • Don’t exercise while you’re lying on your back in the second half of your pregnancy, as you can find that the baby bump presses on some of your major blood vessels which can make you feel faint.
  • Saunas and steam rooms at the gym are a bad idea as they can overheat you – and avoid doing too much when the weather is hot for the same reason.

If you start to feel tired or can’t cope with the level of exercise that you were used to pre-pregnancy, don’t be ashamed if you need to miss a class or sit something out. Take care of yourself and your baby – and if at all in doubt, speak to the gym instructor or your doctor.

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