Should I workout during my pregnancy? If you’re an expecting mum and wondering if exercise is safe for you and your baby, here are the experts take on the matter.
Exercise is great for you and your baby. Most doctors not only allow but encourage pregnant women to exercise regularly. Studies have shown pregnant mothers who exercise give birth to stronger babies with a lowered risk of cardiovascular problems in life, as they have stronger blood vessels.
Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy
Prenatal exercise offers a ton of health benefits. Regular exercise relieves stress, alleviates pregnancy discomfort like back pain and lowers your risk of pregnancy complications. Maintaining a workout routine during pregnancy also prevents gestational diabetes – a condition where your blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy. After childbirth, you may also find yourself bouncing back to your pre-pregnancy body much faster!
What Kind of Exercises Should I Do?
There are loads of exercises that are suitable for expecting mums, as long as it’s done in moderation.
Experts recommend a low to moderate intensity workout for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. If you feel you can’t commit to 30 minutes daily, you can break it down into mini-workouts throughout the day as well. In fact, you might be pleased to know that doing housework is counted as physical exercise as well!
Brisk walking is the safest activity for pregnant mothers, as it doesn’t strain your muscles too much. It’s a great activity to keep the heart rate up with if you are new to exercising.
Water buoyancy helps to support your growing baby weight and is easy on the joints and muscles. It is also a great total body workout.
Your growing baby weight and body changes will shift your centre of gravity, making you lose your balance more easily. Cycling indoors on a stationary bike is much safer for pregnant women than riding a normal bike, as you are less likely to lose your balance and fall off.
Pregnant mothers should adopt a strength training program that strengthens the muscles and build stamina. Strong muscles are needed to support your changing body through pregnancy and in preparation for labour and childbirth.
Jogging and running are great aerobic workouts to keep you fit and healthy. It is a low impact activity, hence it does not harm the baby. If you used to run regularly before, it should be fine to continue running throughout your pregnancy. Just remember to reduce the intensity, mileage and stick to the easier running routes.
Exercises To Avoid During Pregnancy
Although most physical activities are deemed safe for pregnant mothers, there are some activities that you should avoid while you are expecting.
Sports that comes with a falling risk or injury should be off-limits. Examples include skiing, snowboarding, gymnastics etc.
Altitude change sports
Your body will require more oxygen as your baby grows, hence it’s a good idea to avoid sports that involve extreme altitude change such as skydiving and scuba diving, as these activities pose a risk of decompression sickness for you and your baby.
Hot Yoga and Saunas
Exercises or physical environments that elevate your body into high temperatures should be avoided, as it diverts blood away from the uterus to your skin to cool off the heat. Certain yoga programs such as hot yoga are unsuitable for pregnant mothers. Saunas, steam rooms, hot soaks are a big no-no as well.
Excessive stretching, jumping or bouncing
Your muscle ligaments will be much looser due to hormones produced during pregnancy, hence it is highly like you might accidentally pull a muscle during your workouts. Avoid sports that consist of rapid, jerking movements such as basketball and netball. Be cautious of pushing your body too hard, and if you feel pain, stop.
Prolonged standing or lying flat on your back
Both these movements constrict major blood vessels and restrict blood flow, which may be harmful to you and your baby.
When Should I Stop Exercising?
If you have specific health conditions and your doctor has advised you to stop exercising, then it’s best to lay off the workouts for the moment. If exercise wasn’t your regular jam in the past, no sweat! Just take it easy and aim to exercise at least 30 minutes a day and build it up from there.
Pro tip: listen to your body. Expectant mums get tired more easily and while breathing hard is perfectly normal during workouts, but overstraining your body is not! Overexerting yourself at this point may severely dehydrate your body and cause poor supply of oxygen to your baby, leading to complications such as preterm labour.
Needless to say, if you experience chronic muscle pain, it would be wise to throw in the towel and call it a day. Pregnancy is a great time to work on your fitness level, however, it is not the time to train for a new, gruelling activity. Avoid exercising to the point of exhaustion.
As a general rule, you don’t need to belong to a gym to be physically active. Any of these physical activities can be done in the comforts of your own home, or you can take a more active role in your everyday life, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. If in doubt, check with your doctor before starting a new physical activity.