Keeping healthy while you are pregnant is of primary importance
for both you and your baby and taking some form of exercise will
go a long way to keeping you fit.
There are a number of forms of exercise that are suitable when
you are pregnant but whatever you do, check it out with your doctor
or midwife first.
Exercise tones your muscles ready for the strain of labour but
also encourages a general feeling of well-being. You will feel more
alive and positive and the action and rocking will stimulate your
Exercise can also be helpful in coping with a number of minor ailments
that are experienced throughout pregnancy. For example, many women
find that they have trouble sleeping, which is often caused by not
having enough exercise during the day. You do not need to go for
a five-mile jog to help you sleep but some light exercise, such
as walking the dog
Exercise does not have to be strenuous to promote sleep, but a light
tiredness can be enough to combat the feeling of being unable to
get comfortable. Exercise can also help women to feel as though
they are in control of some of the symptoms of pregnancy.
While there are a great many benefits to exercising during pregnancy,
care should be taken if a new programme is to be started from scratch.
Begin by checking with your GP that there are no reasons why some
kind of exercise should not go ahead, and whether a particular set
of movements should be encouraged or avoided for your personal condition.
Once the all clear has been given, you can choose the type of exercise
you would like to begin - there is a selection described below.
If you have been exercising regularly before becoming pregnant,
there is no reason why you should not continue with a more gentle
form of the established programme. Once your pregnancy has been
confirmed, check with your GP to make sure that the exercise you
have previously been doing is safe for your individual condition.
If he or she is happy with the type of exercise you have been doing,
then just reduce the duration and intensity of the exercise during
If your GP recommends that you change the type of exercise that
you undertake, try changing to one of the exercise forms below.
There are a variety of forms of exercise that are suitable for pregnant
women. They are generally gentle and simple exercises that do not
put undue stress on the body, or the growing baby.
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise, as it is gentle and relaxing.
The movements in yoga improve suppleness and help you to focus on
specific muscle groups. As well as having relaxing properties, these
exercises increase awareness of the way the body moves, and the
functions that each muscle performs. This is beneficial for labour,
as the relaxation techniques learned in yoga classes can be transferred.
The focus on breathing promoted in yoga is also of benefit to women
during labour, as heightened awareness of the way breathing can
be used to relax is of benefit.
Yoga can either be practiced at a class or at home with one of the
videos available on the market.
Home exercising with yoga is reasonably safe, provided the routine
is followed closely and the danger signs (below) are looked out
Attending a yoga class is a positive way of exercising during pregnancy,
as the instructor will be able to offer advice and specialist care.
There is also the opportunity to meet and socialise with other women.
The main benefit of swimming is that the exercise is done in water,
which supports the joints and helps reduce the likelihood of injury.
Swimming is good for stamina and toning the body, and promotes a
feeling of general well being. It is important to swim in a heated
pool during pregnancy, and not to push yourself too hard. It is
important to rest frequently, and to take the exercise at your own
pace. This can be quite simple with swimming, as it is often an
activity done alone or as a couple. This way there is no feeling
of peer pressure or having to keep up with others.
Many pools and health centres run special aqua-aerobics classes
for pregnant women, and these, or gentle standard aqua-aerobics,
are a good form of exercise. Exercising in water supports the joints,
so little impact is suffered. The increased buoyancy offered by
exercising in water allows a higher level of movement to be achieved
without risking damage or injury.
Classes designed for pregnant women are likely to be of a lower
impact than a standard class, and will use either lighter weights
or no weights at all. There is likely to be a focus on breathing
and keeping the movements small and controlled. These classes also
offer a good place to meet other women, form friendships and find
Many women find exercising in water very relaxing, and find they
are able to work for longer periods, as they feel supported in the
water. However, exercise in water still causes perspiration, and
it is important to recognise that fluids are lost and need to be
replaced during or after exercising.
This is one of the best forms of exercise during pregnancy, as the
necessary equipment is readily available and very cheap. While no
special clothes are necessary for walking, it is important not to
become too hot or too cold, so loose comfortable clothing should
be worn, preferably in layers so items can be removed or added with
ease. Trainers with a reasonable amount of support should also be
Walking should be taken at a gentle pace, and liquids taken at regular
intervals if the weather is warm.
Walking may become uncomfortable in the later stages of pregnancy.
Gentle cycling, whether static or road cycling is a good form of
exercise for pregnant women, as it can be taken gently at your own
individual pace. As for any type of exercise, wear loose, comfortable
clothing and soft shoes. Do not allow yourself to become out of
breath or push too hard; steep inclines should be avoided.
Balance can be affected in the later stages of pregnancy, and this
may make road cycling difficult. Do not be tempted to try to cycle
outside if your balance is affected, as falling from a bike could
damage your baby.
Lifting weights during pregnancy is a slightly controversial issue.
While the benefits in helping to prevent osteoporosis are not denied,
it is debatable as to whether pregnant women should lift weights
It is certainly not advisable for anyone to begin lifting weights
for the first time during pregnancy, but women who have previously
exercised in this way should be able to continue, as long as the
weight lifted and the number of repetitions is reduced. Those used
to lifting weights should reduce the load by 15%, and should do
more reps with lighter weights rather than vice versa.
As with any form of exercise it is worth consulting your GP on this
matter especially as practitioners have different opinions on lifting
One of the most important exercises to be done during pregnancy
are pelvic floor exercises. The pelvic floor is made up of muscles
and tissues suspended from the pelvic bone, forming a funnel shaped
support for the bowel, bladder and uterus.
While women of all ages are encouraged to exercise these muscles,
hormones released during pregnancy cause an amount of relaxation
in the pelvic floor, so it is doubly important to keep these muscles
toned at this time.
The exercises that will help keep the pelvic floor toned are usually
explained during antenatal classes, and are not difficult to practice.
If you are not sure where your pelvic floor muscles are, they are
the muscles that are used when you try to stop the flow of urine.
Once you are used to isolating these muscles, practice tensing and
releasing them 25 times or more each day. Hold the muscles for as
long as possible each time. This duration will increase with practice,
as will the number of repetitions possible.
These exercises can be done just about anywhere, while sitting at
a desk, cleaning your teeth or standing in a queue at the bank.
Many activities can be practised in the home or at a class or group.
There are benefits to both, and the choice of activity is really
down to the individual. If you know of a class that you would like
to go to, and can afford the fees, then you will be safe exercising
under supervision. If, however, budget is an issue, there is no
reason why you shouldn't walk or cycle in safety, as long as you
look out for any danger signs as detailed below.
Provided it is undertaken in a sensible way, exercising during pregnancy
should be perfectly safe. However there are some signs that indicate
there may be problems.
If any of these symptoms are experienced while exercising, you
should stop and rest immediately-
- severe breathlessness,
- dizziness or disorientation,
- shortness of breath,
- cramping in the abdomen or lower back
- loss of blood or fluid from the vagina
While exercising in pregnancy it is important to take notice of
the way your body feels, and the signals it is giving you. If you
are feeling tired, or experiencing discomfort in any area, stop
exercising and rest. Any pain experienced during exercise should
be taken seriously and acted upon; stop the movement immediately
and consult your GP, midwife or other caregiver as soon as possible.
It is highly recommended that sit/curl ups should not be attempted
during pregnancy, as these can put undue stress on the muscles of
the abdomen. These muscles separate to allow the uterus to enlarge,
and may not be able to deal with the strain that this type of exercise
There is debate as to whether jogging is safe during pregnancy.
There is no doubt that jogging can place strain on the joints, and
can also jar the back and pelvis. Women who have jogged seriously
before becoming pregnant may be happy to continue, provided they
have a pregnancy with no complications and their GP is happy with
this course of action. It is probably not a good idea to begin jogging
while pregnant, as the body will not be used to the stresses and
strains that this form of exercise can give.
It is generally accepted that contact sports should be avoided during
pregnancy, as the risk of accident is too high. Also, some sports
and activities that can be found at holiday resorts, such as water
skiing, should also be avoided. For more information on these types
of activities, see the article Travelling When You Are Pregnant.
Special care should be taken with flexibility and stretching exercises,
as the ligaments are looser than normal. Overstretched ligaments
will not totally recover, and could cause problems later on. Long
or sharp stretches should not be performed, as they can be dangerous,
although gentle stretches to relieve soreness or stiffness can be
During late pregnancy, any exercises lying on the back should be
avoided. This is because this position can stop blood flowing freely
to the foetus.
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