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There’s a lot of confusion around exercise during pregnancy… many of the women who reach out to me are keen to continue with their regular group fitness but aren’t sure how to adjust exercise routines to match their changing bod. This week, we’ve got your back (… and belly🤰)!
The first question women often ask when they fall pregnant is: ‘can I continue going to my cardio and strength classes?’ Well, so long as there are no complications or specific directions from your doctor to ease off, that’s a big YES from us!
Staying fit will be a big help to both you and your baby throughout your pregnancy and beyond. That said, you’ll definitely want to make some changes to your regular routine as suitable exercise during pregnancy changes at different stages of your journey.
I recently gave birth to my gorgeous baby girl, Izzy, but just before I popped, I made this quick video outlining a few simple changes you can make to your group exercise classes to make them safer and more comfortable for you.
Now, I’m in no way saying this is the best form of exercise during pregnancy. If you can afford to work with a prenatal specialist or hire a trainer/pilates instructor who can work with you one-on-one and adjust your programming specifically for your body/stage of pregnancy, then that is without a doubt the gold standard.
This guide is for gals who are already fit and attending group classes but want to make sure they’re looking after their body and their baby. It can feel kinda awkward constantly asking the instructor for variations mid-class, so we wanted to give you a few quick swap to stash up your sleeves.
First, I’ll give you a quick rundown of some considerations as you move through the trimesters below, then you can hit PLAY on my video demonstrating various changes you can make on-the-spot as you participate in your regular group sessions.
I hope this gives you some idea of how to adjust things so you feel comfortable and confident! Note that if in doubt, long walks in the sunshine are always a good idea.
BUF Pro Tip: We always refer our pregnant gals to a good women’s health physio throughout and after their pregnancies. If you’re in Bondi we recommend Women In Focus.
The Aussie guidelines for exercise during pregnancy – an overview:
- As pregnancy progresses, the body goes through significant changes, such as increased laxity (looseness) of joints, changes in centre of gravity (less balance) and an increased resting heart rate. Therefore, modifications are important.
- Women who are pregnant and participating in activities that require a high degree of balance or rapid changes in direction should consult with their doctor first. Your doctor may recommend that you see a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist for a program that can be developed specifically for you.
- Specific activities to avoid during pregnancy include: contact sports, high-altitude exertion and exercise in the supine position (lying flat on your back) should be avoided after the first trimester or around 16 weeks gestation. Most women will feel fine with supine movements where the glutes lift off the ground periodically, like hip raises or pelvic tilts. Modifying the position of these exercises to be performed on your side, sitting or standing is a safe alternative to switch it up.
- Types of exercise during pregnancy that are safe include: aerobic conditioning (moderate, not chasing the burn) and strength training of all the major muscle groups and your pelvic floor.
- Women who are active during pregnancy can continue with their regular exercise or sport, as long as associated risks and any recommended changes are considered (such as avoiding the specific activities above, not making rapid changes in direction and making sure you don’t overheat or over-exert).
- The ‘talk test’ can be used to guide a safe intensity throughout your pregnancy – reduce the exercise intensity if talking is not possible. You’re not aiming for ‘the burn’ during this special time.
- Always warm up and cool down properly.
- Consume enough calories to meet the needs of your pregnancy AND your exercise program.
- Stay hydrated as you need a LOT more hydration during pregnancy. Drink water before, during, after your workout.
- Get up and down from the floor slowly
Things to be cautious of when performing exercise during pregnancy:
- Avoid raising your body temperature too high – for example, don’t soak in hot spas or exercise to the point of heavy sweating. Reduce your level of exercise on hot or humid days.
- Don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion – take regular breaks.
- If weight training, choose low weights and medium to high repetitions – avoid lifting heavy weights altogether.
- Avoid exercise if you are ill or feverish.
- If you really don’t feel like exercising on a particular day, don’t! It’s important to listen to your body to avoid unnecessarily depleting your energy reserves.
- Don’t increase the intensity of your sporting program while you are pregnant, and always work at less than 75 per cent of your maximum heart rate.
- In addition, if you develop an illness or a complication of pregnancy, talk with your doctor or midwife before continuing or restarting your exercise program.
Exercises to avoid altogether:
- Contact sports or activities that carry a risk of falling
- Competition sports – depending on the stage of your pregnancy, the level of competition and your level of fitness (consult your doctor, physiotherapist or healthcare professional)
- After about the fourth month of pregnancy, exercises that involve lying flat on your back – the weight of the baby can slow the return of blood to the heart. Try to modify these exercises by lying on your side.
- In the later stages of pregnancy, activities that involve jumping, frequent changes of direction and excessive stretching (such as gymnastics or plyometrics).
- In the third trimester, be cautious with single leg exercises (like wide-step lunging and big step-ups) due to pelvic instability.
- Also avoid anything but very light lifting overhead, due to a risk of dizziness with lowered blood pressure.
STOP exercising while pregnant if you experience any of the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Any ‘gush’ of fluid from the vagina
- Calf pain or swelling
- Chest pain
- Decreased foetal movement
- Shortness of breath before exertion
- Excessive fatigue
- Pelvic pain
- Excessive shortness of breath
- Painful uterine contractions
- Vaginal bleeding
Ultimately, listen to your body. Be aware of these signs and symptoms, stop physical activity immediately and consult your doctor.
Happy exercising fit mamas! Being on the other side of the delivery suite, I can now see just how important all the good work I put in during my pregnancy has been for my recovery, so I promise you… it’s all worth it 😉
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