Advice Column, Health

Exercise During Pregnancy

  • The Heart & Stroke Foundation
  • Category Advice Column, Health

So you’re pregnant? Congratulations! Suddenly everything in your life centres around the new little person you’re expecting. There’s so much to do and plan as your countdown begins, but how many of us make time to look after ourselves? Sadly, not many do. Work, home life, busy schedules, and antenatal check-ups – they all take time and often the exhausted expectant mom has no time or energy left to consider her own health and wellbeing. That’s why we’re here to help.

Here are some top tips for exercise for pregnant moms – these are simple and can be incorporated into your already busy schedule without a lot of fuss or expense. Remember, a healthier, happier you results in a healthier, happier baby.

The Benefits Of Physical Activity

Physical exercise has many health benefits, including improving your posture and relieving backache. It can also decrease your chances of developing high blood sugar and/or blood pressure. What’s more, if you’re worried about that gorgeous figure you had before falling pregnant, you’ll be pleased to know that certain types of exercise may decrease the chance of getting varicose veins and of putting on extra weight during your pregnancy.

Examples of exercises that are safe to do during pregnancy:

First Trimester 

During the first three months, activities such as walking, low impact dancing, household activities such as scrubbing the floor, low intensity swimming, cycling, floor exercises and strength training can be done safely. You can also continue stomach crunches for the first three months. If your breasts are sore or sensitive, you are suffering morning sickness, or feeling very tired, then exercise only when you feel well enough.

Second Trimester

During month’s four to six, you can safely continue with low impact activities such as walking, low intensity swimming, stationary cycling, low impact dancing, household activities and strength training. During this time you might feel that your balance is affected. If so, stay away from any activity that throws you off balance. Now is the time to rather cycle indoors on a stationary bike, or do something safer such as low impact dancing, gardening, household chores, swimming or walking. You should now stop any curl-up stomach exercises, avoid any moves lying on the back or stomach or bending backwards. You should also avoid lying on your back for long periods.

Third Trimester

In the last three months of pregnancy, you should only do light exercises such as walking, low impact recreational dancing, swimming and indoor cycling. More specifically, exercises you should avoid at any stage of your pregnancy include:

  • Any exercise with bouncing movements (e.g. running, jumping, etc.) – although if you are already a runner, you can continue as long as your doctor tells you that it is safe to do so
  • Any exercises that could cause you to fall
  • Any contact sport (e.g. karate, or any team sport that involves contact between players) that could hurt your stomach muscles or the baby
  • Any ball or team sports (e.g. soccer, netball, tennis, softball, volleyball, basketball, etc.)

Our Top Tips:

  • Aim for light to moderate physical exercise for 30 minutes 3 to 5 days per week.
  • The 30 minutes can also be broken up into bouts of 10 minutes throughout the day.
  • Strength training activities can be done 2 to 3 times per week.
  • For muscles to recover and become stronger, at least one day of rest between sessions is required.
  • During pregnancy, don’t train too hard. You should be able to talk while exercising.
  • You can / should include floor exercises into most exercise sessions.
  • Healthy stomach and hip muscles will support the growing uterus to stretch easily and recover quickly after childbirth.

A Note Of Caution:

You should stop exercising and see the doctor immediately if any of the following happens:

  • Bleeding or fluid leakage from the vagina
  • Feeling dizzy, out of breath or feeling like fainting
  • Headache or nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness or an inability to walk
  • Pain or swelling in the lower leg muscles
  • Start of labour
  • The baby suddenly stops moving
  • Cramping
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