There are numerous health benefits for women who exercise during pregnancy and post partum. These include weight maintenance, improved mood and maintenance of fitness levels. Yet we often find that pregnant women are uncertain about the types and amount of exercise that should be performed, and the safety concerns around it. We at WitFit Health Club Mulgrave aim to clear this up for soon to be or current mums, by providing information surrounding common questions and concerns such as safety, benefits and examples of exercises.
Am I safe to exercise during pregnancy? What benefits can I get out of it?
Firstly at WitFit Health Club we recommend you consult your doctor, physiotherapist or other health professional prior to exercise to ensure you are safe to proceed.
It was previously believed that women should refrain from exercise during pregnancy due to potential foetal risk. However research shows there is no risk for upcoming mums, as completing a mixture of aerobic (e.g. stationary cycling, water aerobics etc.) and strength/toning training, 3-4 days per week from the end of 1st trimester till the end of pregnancy has nil foetal issues. Allowing us to know that exercise is safe to complete!
It is important to know that pregnancy itself comes with common complications such as gestational diabetes, weight gain, pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure), lower back pain etc. However these conditions can be prevented/treated through the use of regular exercise training.
Regular exercise during pregnancy can improve physical and emotional wellbeing, leading to:
- Improved fitness
- Improved mood regulation
- Increased energy levels
- Weight control
- Reduced back and pelvic pain
- Improved sleep
- Improved posture
How do changes I experience impact exercise? What should I aim to do to make exercise as safe as possible?
During pregnancy women undergo common changes, affecting the way we exercise. They include;
- Production of relaxin, a hormone that increases flexibility, however can increase risk of joint sprains.
- An increase in weight gain + change in weight distribution, causing a shift in centre of gravity, altering balance and coordination.
- Decreased energy levels, increased fatigue.
- Laying on your back, causing a compression of the large vein that runs under the uterus (inferior vena cava) that can cause a drop in blood pressure.
- Have adequate fluid intake.
- Avoid exercising in heat/humid climate.
- Reduce the usual time intervals/intensity you exercised as prior to pregnancy, as energy levels are decreased.
- Wear light clothing for temperature regulation.
Post pregnancy, when can I start exercising? What should I be doing?
You are able to gradually resume exercise as soon as your doctor or mid-wife give you the all clear (often 6-8 weeks post), starting with low-impact aerobic activity, such as walking. If you had a C-section, you need to allow that to heal before working out. You are however able to begin walking regularly as this helps with the healing process with improved circulation. The key for exercising post partum is to listen to your body and not overdo it; your body needs the time to heal. Below are some common exercises that can be completed at the gym or even at home, focusing on 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions of each, 4-5 days a week, however this is only a guide, remember to work as your body allows. See us at WitFit Health Club Mulgrave for any tips or demonstrations on these and more exercises beneficial during pregnancy,
1. The bridge
This simple move targets the legs, bottom, core and pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor, in particular, will be weakened by your recent pregnancy and birth, so getting it back to its former glory is essential. All you need to do is lie on your back, bend your knees and slowly lift your hips (like a bridge).
2. The side plank
This is a wonderful movement for the deeper layers of the abdominals – the muscle that support your entire core (including your lower back).
Simply lie on your side with your elbow underneath your shoulder and raise your hips to engage your entire core.
3. The bird dog
Many pregnant women struggle with back pain and it can endure into postpartum. This exercise is great for strengthening the lower back and surrounding musculature. It is effective in reinforcing proper core recruitment, postural control & reduction in low-back pain.
To perform, kneel on the floor on all fours, in quadruped position, with knees under hips, hands under shoulders. Then raise your opposite arm and leg straight out, maintain a braced core, drawing your stomach in, focus on deep breaths in and out to relax.
4. The squat
An all-encompassing lower body exercise (hamstrings, quads, glutes, calves), helping build up that leg strength. It also is one of the most functional exercises, promoting mobility and stability for a variety of real world tasks.
To complete, simply place your feet slightly wider than hip distance, bend your knees into a squat position (no lower than 90 degrees), return to starting position by standing up tall, squeezing your bottom on the way up.
Remember; enjoy the benefits of moving at your own pace – without any pressure. Try keeping active and moving during both pregnancy and post-partum, ensuring you are well hydrated and get plenty of rest. And as always, talk to your doctor if you’re ever unsure what’s right for you.
Come in and see the team at WitFit Health Club today to book a free consultation and chat about how exercise can help you during pregnancy today!
The WitFit Team.