Gaining weight is not only inevitable during pregnancy, it is necessary for the health of the baby. But those few extra pounds shouldn’t stop you from remaining fit and healthy, and it most definitely shouldn’t stop you from exercising.
Unfortunately, many women either don’t know what exercises they should do during pregnancy, or fear that it could cause harm to the baby. That’s why I want to set the record straight. While you should probably avoid running marathons or participating in extreme sports, light exercise during pregnancy will benefit both you and your baby.
Here’s your survival guide to a fit and healthy pregnancy body:
Changes to the body
There are several changes that happen to a woman’s body during pregnancy that can make some exercises uncomfortable. There will be a shift in weight distribution as the baby grows and the belly starts to expand. This can make balance and coordination more difficult than usual. Add to this the effects of the hormone relaxin, which causes ligaments and joints to loosen in preparation for childbirth, and women can feel a lot less stable and more prone to injuries than normal.
What exercises can I do?
Pregnancy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise at all. While I wouldn’t recommend high-intensity activities, anything done at a low or moderate intensity should be fine if you were reasonably active before pregnancy.
Walking is one of the most popular forms of exercise for pre- and post-natal women as it has minimal risk, but improves strength and cardiovascular fitness. Cycling is also a great cardiovascular workout, and can be done on a stationary bike later in pregnancy when balance may become an issue.
I always encourage light resistance training to prepare the body for when the baby arrives. Lifting and carrying a baby when you have no upper body strength can be tough, but if you’ve toned your arms during pregnancy it will seem much easier. Use light weights to work your biceps, triceps and shoulders, and stop exercising if you feel dizzy or unwell at any time.
Maintaining strength and tone in your legs and glutes is also important. Exercises like squats and lunges can be done safely and effectively right up until birth, or until it no longer feels comfortable.
Are sit-ups allowed?
It is advised that you avoid any exercises that involve lying on your back after the first trimester. As your uterus grows it can compress the vena cava – a blood vessel that returns blood to your heart – which can decrease blood flow to you and the baby and cause dizziness.
But just because sit-ups are off the agenda, it doesn’t mean you should neglect your core. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Standing crunches and pelvic tilts, along with arm and leg extensions on your hands and knees are safe (but also effective ) ways to keep your core in shape.
Even though pregnancy can be tough in many ways, keeping fit will help you both physically and mentally. Inactivity can contribute to excess weight gain, high blood pressure and an increased risk of gestational diabetes. Plus, it can also affect stress levels and anxiety. So it is very important to try to make time in your day to keep active and take some time out for you and your body.
I promise you that your post pregnancy self will thank you for it!