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Pregnancy & Exercise – What, When and How?

Pregnancy is overwhelming enough as it is, your body is changing before your eyes, you have a world of unknown ahead and there is so much advice out there that it is a touch daunting. So it is no wonder that many women are not sure where to start when it comes to exercising during pregnancy. What is helpful, what is dangerous and is it risky? There are a few modes that I prefer during pregnancy because they make me feel good, usually fairly safe and staying active has so many benefits. So what are my favorite types of exercise during pregnancy?

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Resistance Training
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Walking

I am really lucky that to date I have had no major complications preventing me from doing these things however there still are things to keep an eye out for when doing these particular exercises modalities.

Yoga 

I have found through my pregnancies (so far) that yoga has been wonderful. However, in saying that, my field of expertise is movement so I know what to watch out for and be careful of and when it comes to yoga it is probably one of the biggest ones to pull back on. The best advice I can give with yoga is not to push it and to take it back a notch or two even if you feel amazing. There is a lot of twisting and over stretching hazards in yoga so it’s important to listen to your body and if you can move to a point where you just feel the stretch that is where you should move to, no further. You need to start easy and and stay easy throughout the whole session. You have so many hormones pumping around your body, including relaxin which compromises the stability of your joints so while amazing for breathing, mindfulness and labor preparation you really do need to be mindful of over stretching and twisting.

Pilates

Obviously I am a huge #pilateslover and I strongly believe it is one of the best things you can do during your pregnancy. As I have said with everything though you really need to tune in to your body and be careful not to over do certain exercises. I feel there is a great opportunity with Pilates to do it the right way and work with professionals that really know what they are talking about. If you aren’t sure if you are using the right muscle or activating your pelvic floor, don’t worry you are not alone. Go and see a women’s health physio and get an assessment and they can take you through step by step what to do. Then you can continue on safely, and quite frankly I think all pregnant women should do this during pregnancy.

Resistance Training 

I have found during this pregnancy I lost so much strength during those first 14-15 weeks as I only really walked. I felt so horrendous and didn’t have much energy so didn’t do much resistance training. I have always been a lover of weight training. For me personally, I don’t hold much muscle so I feel when I am consistent with strength training I always feel great. From a weight management perspective, it is a fabulous mode of exercise as the more muscle you have the faster your metabolism is. Modifications do need to be made throughout pregnancy though. Avoid heavy weights and stick to light or bodyweight with high repetitions. Avoid lifting over your head, especially if neutral spine doesn’t mean anything to you or you’re unsure if you are maintaining it. You also want to ensure you have good pelvic floor activation. The key is to exhale on exertion/the hard part of the exercise. This will ensure you a) don’t hold your breath and b) you contract your deep core muscles throughout the hardest part of the exercise. Another thing to keep in mind is that we already have increased energy requirements so we need to make sure we fuel exercise during this stage of life. I always make sure to eat prior to any exercise and after as well. Try and get carbohydrates before and protein after such as a piece of toast and yoghurt respectively.

Swimming

I absolutely love being swim fit and it is one of the things I have been quite consistent at throughout this pregnancy and in my last. It is a really safe exercise pre and postnatally as there are no impacts on the joints. Make sure if you are jumping in the water that it is cooler than 32-35degrees. If you are suffering joint pain, even walking in the water is another great option to keep moving. I do really find that I have had the most pain in those first few months purely due to not moving as much. My body needs movement, who is with me?

Cycling 

I personally don’t cycle when pregnant, for no other reason outside of I am just not feeling it, and haven’t for the last 4 years to be honest but it is another option for exercise when pregnant. However, keep it stationary, no cycling adventures with the risk of falling and if you have any sacro-illiac joint pain (around your sacrum/lower back) it is not advisable as you will move around this joint when cycling.

Can you run when Pregnant? 

There is no straight answer on this one. I think it is personal and something you need to discuss with your doctor and women’s health physio. If it is something you have been doing for years they may say to you that it is fine. For me personally I have chosen not to. I just felt that I didn’t need that extra pressure on my pelvic floor and although I am a running lover a few years off is probably not a bad thing for my joints. For me walking and taking some hilly options has quenched my running thirst.

Pregnancy can present us with so many concerns, so many changes and challenges. One challenge we don’t need at this time is exercise so don’t over complicate things and go all out. Listen to your body and just do what feels right. Always talk to your obstetrician about how you are feeling and what you are doing and checking in with a Women’s Health Physio can be so helpful to check if you are recruiting the right muscles and if you are at an i

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