Exercise during pregnancy is a brilliant way to stay healthy, feel great and benefit from being physically active. Maintaining a regular exercise routine during pregnancy has been associated with better weight control, reduced risk for gestational diabetes, reduced backaches, bloating and leg cramps, lower risk of preeclampsia, enhanced body image, this leads to improved psychological health, improved fetal development and helps prepare the mother for the demands of labor. If you were active before pregnancy then you can continue, with your doctor’s clearance, working at a light to moderate intensity is recommended. If you haven’t worked out previously and have been cleared by your doctor then starting slowly and gradually with a workout routine is recommended. Pregnancy is definitely not the right time to start setting world records but it is a great time to establish healthy habits for both the mom and baby. It is important to take into account the physical changes that are taking place within the body and the effect these changes will have on the baby while pregnant.
During pregnancy, the body undergoes a tremendous amount of change. Besides the increase in weight, and most joints in the body become more flexible due to a hormone called relaxin so care should be taken while exercising, even going for a walk can sometimes aggravate the pelvis and lower back, there are always options that can be taken for various different exercises, body weight exercises, use of a swiss ball, resistance bands and light dumbbells and machine weights (depending on trimester) are all some of my top picks for prenatal training. As the body changes and there is progression made through out the pregnancy these variations in training can be made to stay active and relatively pain free.
For cardiovascular and strength training a scale called the ‘Rate of perceived exertion’ is used to understand how hard a pregnant woman should be working during exercise. Light to moderate intensity is generally recommended and anything between 5-7/10 RPE is considered safe. Thankfully a pregnant woman naturally becomes more efficient at cooling herself down while exercising, it is still extremely important to drink adequate fluids and exercising outdoors and avoid extreme heat. It is recommended to keep a cool flannel close by and wipe over radial arteries (wrist) once the temperature outside starts rising. Exercising until exhasution should be avoided at all times and following a program with grandual progressions for each trimester both cardiovascualrly and strength specific, is important as the pregnant woman changes rapidly with her posture, centre of gravity and movement patterns. If you are new to exercise take your time and ease into a fitness regime that is attainable through out pregnancy.
The benefits of strength training for the pregnancy mother include:
⁃ Reduced weight gain during pregnancy, especially the second half of pregnancy
⁃Less retention and deposition of body fat
⁃ Weight stays within normal range
⁃ Increased energy levels positive attitude and self esteem
⁃ Increased breathing efficiency and a longer time before fatigue doing day-to-day activities
⁃ Better body image and more self confidence
⁃ Decreased likelihood of varicose veins, pregnancy induced diabetes and lower back pain
⁃ Increased muscle strength
⁃More restful sleep and less exhaustion
⁃Helps prevent constipation
⁃ Improved posture
⁃ Improved digestion and elimination
During pregnancy some women are under the impression that they are eating for two, however; although the mother is growing a baby, eating for two isn’t quite necessary; you have to obtain a minimum amount of weight to ensure that your baby develops and grows properly. Putting on too much weight will increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes and hypertension, which may lead preeclampsia. According to the Institute of Medicine (IoM), how much weight you should gain is directly related to your weight before pregnancy. The following table contains some general advice regarding the desirable weight gain and is based on data from the IoM, found here: