Although you may not feel like running a marathon, most women benefit greatly from exercising throughout their pregnancies. But during that time, you’ll need to discuss your exercise plans with your health care provider or your local GP early on and make a few adjustments to your normal exercise routine. The level of exercise recommended will depend, in part, on your level of pre-pregnancy fitness and also any issues during previous pregnancies.
For me exercise really helped me to stay much healthier during my second pregnancy with Chloe – compared with my first pregnancy where exercise was non-existent! During my second pregnancy I had already lost a little weight before I got pregnant again but the second time around I was sure to stay more active and eat a much healthier and balanced diet. I was lucky enough to be the same weight 9 months pregnant as I was when I GOT pregnant – which meant I had actually lost body fat at the same rate as I gained bump 🙂 There was nothing special apart from continuing with my healthy eating and remaining the same level of activity as pre-pregnancy (which at that time was walking with the buggy and light exercise on the cross trainer). I definitely felt that for me, being fitter and healthier during the pregnancy made the labour and delivery more straight forward – but more importantly with a 1 year old already at home I really felt that I recovered much more quickly from the birth as a result. It wasn’t long before I was back out walking again, but this time with a double buggy! Losing weight whilst looking after little ones IS hard – but it isn’t impossible and doesn’t have to mean hardship or starving yourself either! We need to be eating enough to sustain our energy during this tiring initial phase, but the goodness that comes from healthy and nourishing food can still be sufficient when the right foods are picked!
Pregnancy, Weight Loss & Exercise
Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy
No doubt about it, exercise is a big plus for both you and your baby (if complications don’t limit your ability to exercise throughout your pregnancy). It can help you:
Feel better. At a time when you wonder how this strange body can possibly be yours, exercise can increase your sense of control and boost your energy level. Not only does it make you feel better by releasing endorphins (naturally occurring chemicals in the brain), appropriate exercise can:
◦ Relieve backaches and improve your posture by strengthening and toning muscles in your back, butt, and thighs
◦ Reduce constipation by accelerating movement in your intestines
◦ Prevent wear and tear on your joints (which become loosened during pregnancy due to normal hormonal changes) by activating the lubricating fluid in your joints
◦ Help you sleep better by relieving the stress and anxiety that might make you restless at night
Look better. Exercise increases the blood flow to your skin, giving you a healthy glow.
Prepare you and your body for birth. Strong muscles and a fit heart can greatly ease labor and delivery. Gaining control over your breathing can help you manage pain. And in the event of a lengthy labor, increased endurance can be a real help.
Regain your pre-pregnancy body more quickly. You’ll gain less fat weight during your pregnancy if you continue to exercise (assuming you exercised before becoming pregnant). But don’t expect or try to lose weight by exercising while you’re pregnant. For most women, the goal is to maintain their fitness level throughout pregnancy.
While the jury’s still out on the additional benefits of exercise during pregnancy, some studies have shown that exercise may even lower a woman’s risk of complications, like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes and I’m positive that if I hadn’t been over weight when I was pregnant with William I wouldn’t have suffered so badly with preeclampsia.
What’s Safe During Pregnancy?
It depends on when you start and whether your pregnancy is complicated. If you exercised regularly before becoming pregnant, continue your program, with modifications, as you need them.
If you weren’t fit before you became pregnant, don’t give up! Begin slowly and build gradually at a low intensity and impact – moving a little is still better than not at all! If you’re healthy, the risks of moderate-intensity activity during pregnancy are very low, and do not increase risk of low birth weight, pre-term delivery, or early pregnancy loss.
Before you continue your old exercise routine or begin a new one, you should talk to your doctor or your health care provider about exercising while you’re pregnant. Discuss any concerns you have and know that you might need to limit your exercise if you have:
Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure (hypertension)
Exercises to Try
Many women enjoy dancing, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, biking, or walking. Swimming is especially appealing, as it gives you welcome buoyancy. Try for a combination of cardio (aerobic), strength, and flexibility exercises, and avoid bouncing.
Many experts recommend walking. It’s easy to vary the pace, add hills, and add distance. If you’re just starting, begin with a moderately brisk pace for a KM, 3 days a week. Add a couple of minutes every week, pick up the pace a bit, and eventually add hills to your route. Whether you’re a pro or a novice, go slowly for the first 5 minutes to warm up and use the last 5 minutes to cool down.
If you were a runner before you were pregnant, you might be able to continue running during your pregnancy, although you may have to modify your routine.
Whatever type of exercise you decide on, the key is to listen to your body’s warnings. Many women, for example, become dizzy early in their pregnancy, and as the baby grows, their center of gravity changes. So it may be easy for you to lose your balance, especially in the last trimester.
Your energy level might vary greatly from day to day. And as your baby grows and pushes up on your lungs (sounds so appealing doesn’t it lol :)), you’ll notice a decreased ability to breathe in more air (and the oxygen it contains) when you exercise. If your body says, “Stop!” — stop!
Your body is signaling that it’s had enough if you feel:
Heart palpitations (your heart pounding in your chest)
Shortness of breath
Pain in your back or pelvis
And if you can’t talk while you’re exercising, you’re doing it too strenuously.
Exercises to Avoid
Most doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid exercises after the first trimester that require them to lie flat on their backs.
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, it’s also wise to avoid any activities that include:
A sudden change of direction
A risk of abdominal injury
Typical limitations include contact sports, horseback riding etc. because of the risk of injury they pose.
Although some doctors say step aerobics workouts are acceptable if you can lower the height of your step as your pregnancy progresses, others caution that a changing center of gravity makes falls much more likely. If you do choose to do aerobics, just make sure to avoid becoming extremely winded or exercising to the point of exhaustion. Take it all at a pace you feel comfortable with.
Always talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Once you’re ready to get going:
Start gradually. Even 5 minutes a day is a good start if you’ve been inactive. Add 5 minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes.
Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothes and wear a supportive bra to protect your breasts.
Drink plenty of water to avoid overheating and dehydration.
Skip your exercises if you’re sick.
Above all, listen to your body 🙂
If you are coming to the Why Weight Ireland studio and you are or may be pregnant, please don’t be afraid to contact me to discuss your situation.
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