Exercising during pregnancy has been shown to have numerous emotional and physical health benefits for both mum and bub. We often hear from mums that would love to continue their exercise regime during pregnancy but are worried or confused about what kind and amount of exercise is considered safe – there’s a lot of confusing information out there! This blog serves to give you some clarity about what you should do when it comes to exercise during pregnancy, to help you keep feeling great and reduce the risk of complications for your child.
Before diving deeper into what exercise is good for pregnant women and in what volume, it is important to know what changes are occurring in our body when we become pregnant.
These changes include:
- Before you even feel pregnant, your cardiovascular system is undergoing tremendous change. By the end of the first trimester, it is estimated that your cardiac output has already increased by 40%… no wonder you feel tired!
- Reduced contraction of blood vessels which can result in increased swelling and oedema.
- Pelvic floor muscles can become weakened during pregnancy due to the increase in weight (usually 12-15kgs) and the increased laxity in your pelvic ligaments due to pregnancy hormones.
With these changes in mind, the 2019 Canadian Guidelines for Physical Activity in Pregnancy provide guidance for pregnant women, obstetric care and exercise professionals on prenatal exercise. The guidelines provide evidence based recommendations regarding physical activity throughout pregnancy, and are the basis for what we recommend to our clients in clinics.
We’re big advocates of exercise with ALL our clients, however with the exceptional benefits relating exercise to pregnancy, the question “should I really be exercising if I’m pregnant?” is a very easy one to answer!
See for yourself:
What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
In the absence of contraindications (you can see the list of contraindications here) at following these guidelines is associated with fewer newborn complications AND maternal health benefits such as:
- Decreased risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia
- Less risk of Instrumented-assisted delivery
- Decreased risk urinary incontinence post birth
- Enhanced psychological well-being.
What amount of exercise is recommended during pregnancy?
Here is what the guidelines recommend about exercising in pregnancy:
- All women without contraindications should be physically active throughout pregnancy.
- This is even if you were or were not physically active prior to your pregnancy. If you are not sure about any contraindications it is always a good idea to discuss your exercise routine with your women’s health physio or doctor
Pregnant women should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week to achieve clinically meaningful health benefits and reduction in pregnancy complications and should be accumulated over a minimum of 3 days per week, however being active everyday is encouraged.
- Pregnant women should incorporate a variety of aerobic and resistance training activities to achieve greater benefits.
- These exercises can include : walking, strength training, cycling, swimming and modified pilates.
- Pelvic floor muscle training may be performed on a daily basis to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence – instruction on proper technique is recommended from your physio or doctor.
- Pregnant women who experience light-headedness, nausea or feel unwell when they exercise flat on their back should modify their exercise position to avoid the supine position.
What activities should be avoided in pregnancy?
- Contact sports (such as basketball, boxing, football)
- Activities with a high risk of falling (such as horseback riding, downhill skiing and gymnastics)
- Hot yoga or hot pilates due to increase in core body temperature.
Even if you were not exercising regularly prior to your pregnancy exercise is safe and beneficial during your pregnancy.
Prenatal exercise is key for reducing the risk of pregnancy complications and enhancing maternal physical and mental health.
So where to next?
It is always a good idea to discuss your pregnancy exercise routine with a specialist such as a women’s health physio or your doctor and is a must if you have any pregnancy complications.
There’s no better time than now, so let’s get moving and enjoy the wonderful benefits of being active through pregnancy.
Thanks for reading and we really hope it helped 😊
– Written by Stef, Women’s Health Physiotherapist