A common question asked by pregnant patients is: “Should I still be exercising?”
There are many myths around what exercises are appropriate to engage in throughout pregnancy, with some people thinking they should avoid it altogether!
Research has shown that overall, there are more pregnant women avoiding exercise than participating in exercise, usually due to barriers such as being unsure of what exercises are safe to do and being uncertain of health risks.
However, the answer to this question of “should I still be exercising?” is an enthusiastic – YES!
Only a small percentage of women may be advised otherwise by their doctor, to not complete exercise during their pregnancy due to pregnancy complications (such as placenta praevia or pre-eclampsia). If you are unsure, it is worth checking with your doctor or midwife about clearance to participate in exercise, particularly if you have low iron or a multiple gestation pregnancy (e.g. Expecting twins).
Here’s our short guide for exercising during pregnancy
So, what type of exercise should I do?
Ideal exercises to complete during pregnancy include:
Tip: You should always include a warm-up and cool-down if pregnant. It helps prepare your body for exercise, can reduce risk of injury, help to prevent blood pooling in your legs and minimise the chance of experiencing cramps.
Things to monitor during exercise include:
- Rate of exertion – use the “talk test” – if you are exercising and can still hold a conversation, then you are exercising at a safe level. Keep your exercises somewhere between “light” and “somewhat hard”.
- Posture – finding a neutral spine position where you can best avoid over-loading the muscle in your back will be beneficial during exercise sessions.
- Overheating – take care to maintain hydration (also when exercising in water!) and try to exercise in the cooler parts of the day.
- Try to eat some carbohydrates 1-2 hours before exercising to address fluctuating sugar levels during pregnancy. If you feel faint or dizzy while exercising, slow down or stop exercising.
- Be aware of over-stretching – pregnancy hormones have a softening effect on joints and ligaments, which can increase the chance of injury particularly during contact sports or stretching sessions. Ideally, avoid contact sports after the first trimester, and take care when stretching to be gentle on your body.
- Be aware of your pelvic floor – pelvic floor muscle exercises are essential during pregnancy to help maintain pelvic support and help manage an increasing weight through the pelvic cavity (i.e. your growing baby). You can break up your exercise session by taking small breaks to focus on pelvic floor exercises.
- If you experience pain from the exercise – seek assistance for why this may be and if anything can be modified
You should completely cease exercise and seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:
- Persistent excessive shortness of breath that doesn’t resolve on rest
- Severe chest pain
- Calf pain, swelling or redness
- Decreased foetal movement
- Regular and painful uterine contractions (which can present as pain in the lower back, pelvic area or abdomen)
- Sudden swelling of the ankles, hands or face
- Vaginal bleeding or amniotic fluid loss
- Persistent dizziness, faintness or headache
How often should I be exercising?
Aim to be physically active on most days of the week. If you are overweight or new to exercise, starting at 3-4 days a week may be more appropriate. Current recommendations of 150 minutes per week of physical activity still apply to pregnant women, with intensity aiming to be a little less than the average population.
If you can’t achieve the recommended amount of exercise, you should still be completing as much as you are able. Every little bit will help.
If you would like assistance in determining appropriate exercise options during pregnancy, assistance developing a program, or an assessment of pregnancy-related pain or weakness (including pelvic floor assessment), please contact Hoys Allied Health + Wellness to arrange an appointment with Heidi.
Hoys Allied Health + Wellness also run a pregnancy-safe core exercise class on Wednesday afternoons at 5.30pm in Sawtell. For further information, please contact us on 6652 7355 or book online.