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> Exercising when Pregnant

One of your grandmother’s pregnancy words of wisdom could have gone like this…“Christine – now I want you to just stay at home, get plenty of rest, and avoid all types of exercise.” And for good reason. Intensive exercise during the later trimesters of pregnancy, if not properly conducted, could endanger the health of mother and baby. However, research findings show that low intensity, prenatal exercise has many beneficial effects, such as shorter labors, reduced risk of preterm labor, fewer complications, and shorter hospital stays.


Prenatal exercise helps mothers to maintain a good physique, and regulate weight gain, especially since being pregnant does entitle a mum to occasionally snack more. They also aid in alleviating the physical ailments of pregnancy, such as headaches, cramps, swollen feet, and tiredness. On top of that, a new study by researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand report that regular aerobic exercise may be good for a growing fetus' health — and could give the baby a healthier start in life. If you’ve remained physically active before pregnancy, then keep the ball rolling! Prenatal exercises can be performed for up to 30 minutes per session, and anywhere from 3 to 5 times a week.


However, do listen to your body’s cues, and if you feel like you’ve overexerted yourself, stop and take a breather immediately. Not all exercises are suitable for pregnant women; avoid the following types of exercises:

  • Sports that involve sudden, hard body contact

  • Sports with a risk of falling from a height

  • Exercises at high altitudes

  • Exercises that require breath holding for long durations

Prenatal exercise is a great way to stay fit and healthy, and also to set you on the right track to regain your figure postpartum. Here are some exercises which are great for pregnant mummies


1. Yoga

Yoga is a popular exercise that builds core strength and balance, keeps muscles limber, reduces blood pressure, and teaches steady breathing rhythm. If you already practice yoga, and you find the positions to be comfortable for your pregnancy routine, then keep it up! During pregnancy, the growing baby needs calcium to develop its skeleton, and if the mother doesn’t get enough calcium, her baby will draw the calcium from her bones. Yoga can help to build bone density, as it is a weight-bearing exercise, placing mild stress on the bones that promotes new bone synthesis. There’s also less stress on cartilage or joints.


However, there are several yoga positions that should be avoided during pregnancy, including backbends, abdominal twists, bikram/hot yoga, and any postures that require your legs to be above your head, such as handstands


2. Pilates

Pilates is a popular, low impact exercise that improves your flexibility, strength and balance, which makes it perfect for mothers-to-be. Pilates especially strengthens your core muscles, pelvic muscles, breath control, body alignment and also to reduce back pain; these will help during labor, and will also promote recovery thereafter. The exercise itself is gentle on the body, and reduces the negative physical side-effects of pregnancy.


However, avoid positions which require you to balance on a single leg, or to support yourself on your tummy, as these are unsafe during the later stages of pregnancy.


3. Swimming/Water Aerobics

Swimming/Water Aerobics is especially ideal for pregnant mothers, as you’d weigh a fair bit less in water, depending on your body fat percentage. The water helps to support your body weight, and can be a source of relief especially during the later stages of pregnancy, where your baby’s weight would be taking a toll on your back, legs and joints. Swimming during pregnancy also improves your aerobic capacity, and provides expecting mothers with a feeling of well-being. It may also help to reduce the effects of morning sickness.


The chlorinated water is not harmful to you or your baby, and it’s safe to be swimming throughout your pregnancy. If you’re a fairly decent swimmer, continue with your normal swim routine, otherwise start slow and work towards a longer duration in the pool. Do not overexert yourself in the pool, keeping your heart rate lower than 120 – 140 bpm. The water should be cool, and not exceed 32°C7. Don’t forget to stay hydrated too; in the water, you don’t feel yourself sweating, but you’re constantly losing fluids.


4. Weight Training

Weight training is a great way to tone your muscles, improve posture, and decrease the aches and pains that are common during pregnancy, such as lower and upper back pains. If weight training was part of your pre-pregnancy workout, then you’ll be good-to-go! However, if you’ve not lifted weights before, and intend to start during pregnancy, it’s best to find a coach who can teach you the best types of exercises and impart right posture for each exercise.


Target to maintain your current muscle tone, or to build it to a reasonably fit level, rather than trying to pile on new muscle every month. Aim for higher repetitions with lighter weights, and gradually build the resistance upwards. Remember to take breaks in between repetitions, and to stay hydrated too!


Try to avoid weight exercises that require you to hold your breath and exert a large push with each repetition, as these can lead to a higher blood pressure during and post exercise. As your baby bump gets larger, the types of exercises which you do will likely change. Opt for seated weight training in the later trimesters, since maintaining a good posture while standing can become increasingly difficult. Your bump will also get in the way of certain exercises involving free weights. Move on to exercise machines if possible, and decrease the repetitions and weights as you near the end of your pregnancy.


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