Although it might seem scary, exercising through pregnancy can often be the best thing you will do for your body and your unborn child.
Think of having a baby as running a marathon, that you need to be fit for! Not only do you require fitness through gestation and labour, it helps to be fit as the baby grows and becomes heavier. Exercise can help to prepare you for the physicality of labour, as well as holding, picking up and chasing after your child.
Benefits of exercise are both mental and physical. Aside from the usual benefits of physical activity such as weight management, improved energy levels and improved mental health, exercise can also help to reduce the risk of common pregnancy-related complications such as pregnancy induced hypertension, pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. These are serious health conditions that can be reduced simply by moving regularly.
Regular movement and exercise can also reduce the risk of back or pelvic pain and help the body become accustomed to a new load – the baby! Research shows that regular exercise through pregnancy can reduce the risk of complications through labour, as well as recovery post labour.
As your body progresses through pregnancy, there are changes to be mindful of when exercising.
When you are pregnant the body releases more of a hormone called Relaxin. This hormone makes ligaments more relaxed (to help the hips widen in preparation for birth). This can increase the chance of sprains and strains. Be mindful of this, especially if you are new to exercise. If you are new to exercise, be mindful of uneven surfaces and change of direction movements.
As pregnancy develops, so does the shape and size of your body. A change in body shape and distribution of weight has the potential to change your centre of balance, which has the potential to alter your coordination and balance. Something to be mindful during movements such as yoga poses or more challenging movements.
Pregnancy also has the potential to increase your resting heart rate. If you have used your heart rate as a measure of exertion, consider changing to a perceived level of exertion scale (RPE Scale), as this may be more accurate as to how hard you are working.
From the second trimester onwards, it is noted that resting blood pressure drops. This can increase dizzy spells. When exercising, be careful of changing postural and body positions too quickly. Move carefully from laying to standing to avoid falling or fainting.
It is always a good idea to seek medical advice prior to commencing exercise. If you have been cleared to exercise, it is recommended that you complete at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most, if not each day. It is important to let your body be the guide of how much exercise you do, and at what intensity. Some days you might feel great, the next day you might struggle to get out of bed.
Exercising with an Exercise Physiologist can also be a great idea, to help guide you through an appropriate exercise program. An Exercise Physiologist can help you set realistic goals and ensure your exercise program is as effective, efficient and safe.