Exercising during pregnancy will help you stay healthy and happy. Regular exercise keeps you in shape and reduces the pain and discomfort as the pregnancy progresses. Physical activity lowers the chances of developing gestational diabetes, a dangerous complication of pregnancy that affects both the fetus and the mother. And finally, imagine yourself after you have spent your pregnancy in daily exercise – childbirth will be another one in a series of workouts. You will complete it with significantly less effort than if you had been lying down or sitting for nine months. We bring you the biggest dos and don’ts of exercising during pregnancy.
Advantages of exercising during pregnancy
Staying in shape is a requirement for an easier pregnancy and smoother delivery. The benefits of exercising during pregnancy include:
- enhanced cardiovascular system function
- reduced excessive weight gain
- improved posture and mood
- faster recovery after the childbirth
- better overall shape
Exercise can help you avoid problems like high blood pressure, which is connected to preeclampsia. Staying active while pregnant can also help avoid the issues that come with weight increases and changes in gait.
The most crucial piece of advice is to pay attention to what your body is telling you. This is not the time to train like an elite athlete and alter all your behaviors at once. It is vital for you to feel good without exhausting yourself too much. We have enough stress in everyday life; physical activity should come as a relief from all of that.
How to monitor exercise intensity?
The best way to keep your prenatal exercise routine safe and effective is to use your body’s responses as a guide. The pulse in pregnancy reacts differently to physical activity. So, instead of monitoring the pulse, we recommend using the “effort experience” rating.
This is a subjective scale that determines how hard you work based on how you feel during the activity. The goal is to maintain a moderate intensity of exercise so that you don’t run out of breath. If you still run out of breath, it is a signal that you need to reduce the intensity or take a break.
The good thing about applying this method is that it allows women of various levels of physical fitness to continue to be in the zone that suits them.
The best exercises, especially in advanced pregnancy, are those in the pool. Swimming or just exercising in the water will at least temporarily relieve your sore spine and strengthen all the necessary muscles. A quick walk is also a great idea. During this kind of physical activity, you exercise your whole body, strengthen your legs (which support your growing belly) and the torso muscles.
The step or elliptical machine in the fitness center will help you with the same goals as fast walking, and they are also safe for the joints. Yoga and other balance and static strength exercises are great in all trimesters, but you should consult with an instructor regarding adequate activities.
Make sure to warm up with light aerobic activity before each workout. The clothes you wear should be cotton to prevent overheating, so avoid synthetic materials. Drink plenty of water, little by little, not all at once. Eat 2 hours before and 30 minutes after training. The pre-workout meal should be light, contain complex carbohydrates (pasta, rice, banana), and avoid fatty foods before and after exercising. The correct diet is crucial during this period.
Moderate weight lifting is safe
If weight training is already part of your exercise routine, there is no need to stop it when you are pregnant. You may need to use less weight than you used before the pregnancy. But, as long as you are careful, regular training is a sure way to tone and strengthen your muscles. It can even help you deal with the demands of pregnancy and childbirth more easily.
Weight training is a great way to stay in good shape during pregnancy, and it also provides benefits after childbirth. Just keep in mind that your fitness goals now can by no means be focused solely on maintaining your form. An introductory program that focuses on the main muscle groups is sufficient. If you are doing kettlebell workouts, you will need to learn how to safely use this piece of equipment.
If you feel muscle pressure or excessive fatigue, change the movements you perform and reduce the frequency. Pregnancy is not the time to push the boundaries.
Avoid certain sports
Avoid activities where there is a chance of falling (skiing, horseback riding) and differences in altitude and pressure (including diving and hiking). Big don’ts also include contact sports like basketball, football, or volleyball, as well as exercises that involve jumping and running.
Use less weight and more reps
To avoid overloading the joints, which relax from increased hormone levels, you should use less weight and practice more repetitions. Also, avoid step-ups when weightlifting, as steps increase the risk of connective tissue injury in the pelvic area. Be extremely careful with hanging weights to prevent accidental blows to the abdomen.
Do not lift weights while lying on your back. After the first trimester, lying on your back can put pressure on the main vein. This reduces the flow of blood to the brain and uterus. Alternatively, you can do lifting on a bench at an angle. Remember, the goal is to maintain your existing muscle tone, not to build new muscles.
Do not do the Valsalva maneuver
This maneuver, in which you exhale abruptly without actually letting out air, can lead to a sudden increase in blood pressure and internal abdominal pressure. It can also reduce the flow of oxygen to the baby.
Do not stretch too much while exercising
While you are pregnant, you are much more flexible due to relaxin. Relaxin is a hormone secreted during pregnancy, and it can make you not feel that you are stretching more than usual and thus put you at risk.
It is also highly recommended to stay away from exercising in hot and humid conditions. Always do a warm-up before working out to get your joints and muscles ready for the movements. If you don’t do that and start exercising right away, you risk getting injured. You also may want to hire a personal trainer who has experience working with pregnant women. Exercising during pregnancy is something that requires a high level of caution and should be treated as such.