Exercise is a great way to stay motivated, fight fatigue and even cope with labour – it isn’t dangerous for your baby (unless told otherwise by a doctor) and shouldn’t be avoided while you’re growing your little one.
If you’re used to a certain kind of work out in your daily life and you’d be sad to miss out during your pregnancy – absolutely continue if you feel up to it. The most important thing to do is listen to your body and recognize what you’re capable of while you’re pregnant, it might be a lot more than you think!
The benefits of exercising during pregnancy
Not only is exercise perfectly safe for you to do while pregnant, it can also have some major benefits that go beyond fitness… If you didn’t have an exercise regime before pregnancy, these benefits might be the perfect nudge to pick one up.
- Reduce high blood pressure – If your blood pressure is on the high side, regular exercise and staying hydrated is a great way to get it down.
- Improve your mood – Sometimes, if you’re stressed or anxious, the last thing you want to do is work out. But exercise releases those glorious endorphins to help you deal with stress and lighten the load a little.
- Helps you sleep better – Kind of an obvious one… exercise is tiring. If you’re struggling to sleep, go for a nice brisk walk or try some Pilates. Anything for a good night’s sleep.
- Helps backaches – Growing another human puts some pressure on your body, a bunch of which is focussed on your back. Exercise is a great way to relieve some of the tension in your lower back especially.
It doesn’t have to be strenuous, if that’s not what you’re into, walking or swimming are great ways to get a low maintenance work out in and bask in the many benefits of staying active while pregnant. Obviously, if you’re an avid weightlifter, pump that iron – whatever you feel comfortable with.
Pregnancy exercise classes or exercising at home
This is really a personal thing. Some women love going to classes specifically for pregnant women – mingling with the other Mums-to-be and sharing the journey while getting a healthy work out.
Others prefer to stay home and exercise on their own. It completely depends on what you’re comfy with.
If you think exercise classes sound like a hoot, there are a bunch of terrific ones, available at pretty much any gym or community group, that are wonderful for keeping you fit and active while pregnant.
- Prenatal Yoga – Yoga is good for the mind, as well as the body! It eases tension, clears your head and lets you focus on you for a little while. It’s also great for practicing those breathing techniques that’ll come in handy during the birth of your little one.
- Water aerobics – This is great one if you’re looking to take it easy. You feel lighter than air, there is no pressure on your joints and ligaments, and aerobic exercises are actually great for burning calories.
- Pregnancy Pilates – Or just regular Pilates, while pregnant. This one is a great, low impact work out to improve flexibility, stretch out those kinks and aches and strengthen your pelvic floor!
If you’re more of a home body or you’re short on time, you can still enjoy pregnancy classes or professional routines (not the water aerobics, obviously). There are so many wonderful YouTube tutorials that you can follow for your daily dose of physical activity – even half an hour a day of a beginner’s yoga gets your muscles stretched and your heart going!
If you’re not into that, housework is actually a great form of exercise - running up and down the stairs, hoovering, stretching to those hard-to-reach areas… Just saying, if you’re the clean one in your household, it certainly counts towards your weekly work out.
Examples of safe exercises during pregnancy
Safe exercises are ones that you feel happy, secure and comfortable with. Whether you started as a couch potato or you’re a total fitness fanatic, there are plenty of work outs that are safe and suitable, specifically for you. Here are some tried and tested examples of safe pregnancy work outs that we’re sure you’ll love.
Pregnancy ball exercises
Top tip: invest in a pregnancy ball. Not only will this superb invention encourage you to sit up instead of slump on the sofa, it also comes with a smorgasbord of exercises that are great for relieving back pain and tension, as well as distributing weight more evenly and taking some of the pressure off.
Start off by gently rocking back and forth, rotating your hips, alternating the direction and moving in a figure of 8 – this is really good to do while watching TV or reading. If you’re looking to amp it up a little, you can try some tougher exercises with your ball – such as wall squats. Stand up and place the ball between your back and the wall, then simply slide down the wall into a squat position – the ball will support your back and help to get those kinks out, while squats in general are a great way to build strength and endurance.
Pelvic floor exercise in pregnancy
While pregnant, your pelvic floor muscles will relax due to the hormonal changes in your body. This could cause you to pee a little when you sneeze, laugh or exercise – totally normal, but there are some things you can do to avoid this. Doing pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) can stop those accidental leakages as well as strengthening your stomach and easing backache.
Try clenching your bum like you’re trying to hold in a poo and bring your pelvic muscles (vagina) up towards your belly. Hold this for around 10 seconds, if you can, and the release. Do this around 10 times and try to repeat the exercise around 3 times a day. You’ll probably find that you can hold for longer each time you do it. This one is also great if you’re working at a desk while you’re pregnant – multitasking at it’s finest.
Back exercise for pregnancy
Back pain is definitely one of the more annoying attributes of pregnancy, but one every pregnant woman has likely experienced. It’s normally caused by carrying extra weight (a small human) and shifting the centre of gravity in your body. Good news is, gentle stretches and low impact exercises can often ease back pain and even strengthen your back, shoulder and arm muscles.
Simple arm and leg raises are perfect for straightening your back and easily stretching those muscles. Kneel on your hands and knees, with your back as straight as you can get it, then lift your right arm and left leg, hold that position for as long as you’re comfortable and switch. And if you did invest in a glorious pregnancy ball, these can be a god send for back exercise. Simply sitting straight on them and gentle bouncing or moving around can help recentre your back and ease some pain.
Exercises to avoid during pregnancy
Although exercise is great and encouraged while pregnant, there are some things to keep in mind and exercises to avoid during your pregnancy. Firstly, if you’re not used to exercise but trying to get into it while pregnant, do not push yourself! Try and begin with 10 minutes of easy exercise a day and build from there. Do what feels right for your body and don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion. Here are some work outs you’ll want avoid while pregnant:
- Hot yoga (or hot anything) – It’s best to not increase your body temperature if you can, for the same reason as Hot Tubs should be avoided while pregnant. It could cause nausea or dehydration and that’s not what we want. If you’re a hot yoga fan, maybe try and switch to pregnancy yoga for a while?
- Scuba Diving – A rare hobby, but you never know. Scuba Diving can actually have some serious effects on your baby, best to avoid.
- Contact sports – Activities where you could be hit with force or knocked over, aren’t a good idea while you’re pregnant.
If you’re unsure about certain exercises while you’re pregnant, or you find it tougher than usual, you can always pay a visit to your doctor. The most important thing to do is stay at your own pace, if you feel comfortable running a 5K, go for it! But if you’re more of a brisk walk kind of person, that’s great too.