Tips for Exercising During Pregnancy
How does exercising makes you feel?
For me, it helps me feel more energetic, more in tune with my mind and body and it helps to keep me healthy and happy. All of these are the benefits I definitely did not want to give up when I began my pregnancy journey this year.
The endorphins produced by working out mean a lot when the pregnancy hormones strike - whether it is in the form of mood swings or just low energy levels.
The goal of exercising while pregnant is not to become muscular or breaking some of your personal records, the goal is for overall good health for you and your baby. Exercising during pregnancy will not only help you feel better physically, but it will help you mentally when your body starts going through it's many changes.
Some of the many benefits of exercising during pregnancy are following:
- Controlling mood swings
- Helping you feel better about yourself
- Strengthening muscles needed for delivery
- Preventing constipation and varicose veins
- Relieving back aches
- Help with swelling ankles and legs
- Lessening fatigue, dizziness and stress
- Better sleep
- Managing your weight
- Fewer episiotomies, c-sections and forceps deliveries
- Shorter labor
- Better shape after delivery
All good reasons to keep up you exercise regime!
So where to start?
If fitness is just your hobby (like me!) and you are not a personal trainer with a background in fitness or pre/post natal exercises, it can be very confusing knowing what it is safe to do whilst pregnant and what it is not. My best advice is to actually seek advice from professionals!
Even though Google can offer a lot of answers, you can never be sure if they are truly right for you. Check with your health care professional if you can continue with your workouts – if everything is okay, they will give you the green light. Next step, if possible, find a pre/post natal certified coach that can offer some advice on your workout routine and modifications you can do. There are also pregnancy fitness classes that can teach you a lot!
I personally wanted to learn more about safe exercises during pregnancy, so I've joined the pregnancy fitness class in my city. As those classes were only twice a week and I still wanted to continue working out from home I printed out my workouts and brought it to my trainer after class, who was kind enough to go through each exercise, explain which ones I should not do anymore and why, and circle the ones that were safe to do. She also recommended few books to learn more! This gave me great peace of mind as I knew wasn't doing anything that could potentially harm me or my baby.
When pregnant it is generally recommended that you reduce your exercise by 70-80% of your pre pregnancy level. This is because your body changes, your center of gravity shifts and some of the activities are not very comfortable due to your beautiful belly. Your pre pregnancy condition will play a large role in determining how intense your exercises can be, and as long as you feel good and the pregnancy remains normal, there is no reason why you shouldn't work out!
How much should you work out and when?
This will vary depending on how you are feeling. If you had a routine of working out 5-6 days per week before getting pregnant, you will see that you can probably maintain that – but do not fret if pregnancy calls for modifications and to slow down. Figure out what works best for you and stick to your normal schedule as much as possible.
If you were not active prior to pregnancy, that does not mean you can't start now – you definitely can! Some of the safest options are walking, swimming, stationary cycling and prenatal classes.
Before getting pregnant I loved getting my workouts first thing in the morning. That completely changed during my pregnancy as I found that I really do need those extra minutes of sleep and that my energy levels in the morning are really not at peak - not to mention nausea in the first trimester did not help either. So I modified and started doing my workouts in the evening, even though my energy levels were lower than pre pregnancy, the food I consumed during the day gave me enough energy to feel strong enough to do my workout later in the day.
Warming up and stretching
Warming up and stretching after workouts is more important than ever, because when you are pregnant your joints and ligaments become softer and loosen up. This can cause joint instability in your lower back and pelvis – warming up gives your body a chance to prepare for the workout and stretching gives it time to recover after it, so do not skip it!
One more very important thing is not to get too hot and ensuring you are properly hydrated. Your trips to the bathroom will become more and more frequent as the baby grows, but do not be tempted to drink less because of it - hydration is very important.
Exercise in the 1st Trimester
It can be difficult when the nausea and morning sickness strike, so if you do not feel well, do not force yourself to exercise. I worked out normally up to week 6, after that nausea and fatigue hit me hard and all I could do was rest until the 2nd trimester. Even though it was hard to process that at first, I realized that at this point, truly the most important thing is to listen to your body and rest, giving it the strength it needs – after all it’s growing a human being!
So remember, even if you cannot see it just yet, your body is going through a lot of changes - be gentle to it.
However, if you are feeling good during the first trimester it is generally safe to do workouts you have been doing so far.
In the first and second month of pregnancy, your strength is the same as before your pregnancy so you should be able to do everything you did prior to pregnancy. You can expect changes in your heart rate as it will probably be higher than usual during and after exercising.
Exercise in 2nd Trimester
Second and third trimester call for some adaptation as some of the moves should be avoided to prevent injury (for example abs exercises should be avoided as it can lead to diastasis recti). It is also recommended not to lie on your back for long periods and to be careful of hips and lower back. If an activity makes you feel shaky or off balance, modify it or discontinue it.
They say that the 2nd trimester is the greatest and I would definitely agree with this statement. Starting 2nd trimester, nausea is gone, you are starting to feel thr baby's movements and your energy levels are back.
Duringthe 2nd trimester as the bump grows bigger and your center of gravity changes, your back, pelvis, hips and legs will be stressed more in your activities. In your workouts you should pay attention to your body and notice the difference between something that is hard as opposed to something that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Avoid the exercises that make your feel uncomfortable, monitor your fatigue and rest when you are tired.
Exercise in 3rd Trimester
Starting the 3rd trimester, working out becomes truly more of a mental challenge – the fatigue is back and your energy levels are up or down. You might experience swelling in your ankles and your joints might feel even more wobbly.
This is where I am currently. But when everything seems hard, I am trying to remind myself how beneficial to me and the baby working out is.
So keep on moving and getting through your workouts the best you can, because even 15 minutes of exercising is better than none and after all, the finish line is closer week by week!