Home > Body > Health > Exercising In Pregnancy – Our Shoulds And Should Nots

First pregnancy? Or maybe you’re tackling it with a toddler in tow? Either way, working out can feel a little scary.

You’re probably asking all kinds of questions. Like if it’s ok to run, spin and jump? Or if specific exercises can hurt your baby?

It’s completely normal to feel nervous about exercising when you have a baby growing in your belly. Lots of women find out they’re pregnant and immediately want to huddle in. And that’s a good thing! The most important thing expectant Mums can do, is to listen to their body.

However, while rest is important, you shouldn’t just sit on the sofa and eat cake for nine months.

Here is why..

The benefits of exercising in pregnancy

Keeping active gives you an easier ride throughout pregnancy, during birth, and helps with post-natal recovery.

It is also known to:
• Reduce back pain
• Boost your energy levels and mood
• Help you sleep better
• Aid digestion and relieve bloating
• Improve balance and posture
• Help prevent gestational diabetes

How much exercise should I be doing?

If you have a low-risk pregnancy, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. ”Try breaking it up into 30-minute sessions over 5 days”, suggests Pelvic Health Physio Therapist Emma Brockwell. She adds, “Remember physical activity can include housework, going for walks, gardening etc.… Moderate-intensity activity involves anything that makes you breathe faster, while you’re still able to hold a conversation. If you want to carry out high-impact exercise, then consider your current fitness ability and the level of risk of your pregnancy. If you’re at low-risk and you’ve never run before, you could start a programme like the NHS ‘Couch to 5k’. If you notice any leakage or pains, then stop and rest and then switch to something that’s lower impact”. Take it easy and listen to your body for what is suitable for you. Want more tips on the types of exercise you can do? Emma’s book ‘Why Did No One Tell Me?” has tons of advice on supporting your body in pregnancy, birth and beyond.

I haven’t exercised in ages. Am I ok to start?

The first trimester can knock you for six, and for many, it’s the most challenging part of pregnancy. It’s common to find yourself four or five months in, with a newly rounded bump and feel completely out of practice. Feeling scared to get started? Personal Trainer James Duigan says there’s no need, “the second trimester is the best time to include some safe exercise in your weekly routine”.

Follow your own footsteps

Go at your own pace. Enjoy being pregnant and find what works for you. If running and cycling now feel ambitious, try swapping them for brisk walks, swimming, or low-intensity workouts. Focus on strengthening techniques, like squats and lunges. Choose exercises that help support your body, try pregnancy yoga, or join a prenatal pilates class. Not only will prenatal classes strengthen your body, but exercising with other mums-to-be will fill you with confidence and make you realise that you’re not the only one feeling a certain way.

But I’m really nervous about exercising

There could be lots of reasons as to why you might be feeling like this. Maybe you’ve experienced miscarriage, or your last baby was delivered via an emergency method. Or, quite understandably, you’re just a bit scared of the unknown. It’s ok to feel like this, and booking in to see a pelvic health physiotherapist could give you the green light you need and a worthy appointment for any mum-to-be. The therapist will be able to assess your fitness levels, discuss what’s achievable, and then steer you on the right path for strengthening up that bod.

What exercises shouldn’t I do during pregnancy?

“It depends on your story”, says Emma Brockwell. She adds, “If you want to carry on with certain sports, then you must speak to your GP. It’s important not to bump the bump. So, avoid sports with a high risk of falling. Also, no weighted sit-ups and abdominal rotation machines after 12-weeks. No hot yoga and sports in extreme heat. I’d also strongly suggest avoiding contact sports such as football or kickboxing”.

Don’t ignore your core

Paying attention to your core is paramount. “It is crucial to pretty much everything you do”, says Emma Brockwell. She adds, “If it’s working well, then it will offer your spine and pelvis stability and reduce your chance of injury. It allows you to move more effectively, stops you from leaking urine, poo and wind and allows you to breathe optimally”.

Do you know where your core is?

For many women pregnancy and birth are the first time we really connect with our bodies. And as you start to practice your pelvic floor exercises, you may experience a light-bulb moment when it comes to locating your core. “Contrary to popular belief, your core is not your six-pack muscles”, says Emma Brockwell.

2 easy steps to finding your core

Once you’ve found it, exercising makes so much more sense.
1. Inhale through your nose and let the air rise into your lower ribs and tummy.
2. Exhale through the mouth, squeeze up from your anus in a sweeping motion towards your pelvis, up to your lower abdomen and then gently draw in your stomach as if you’re gently hugging your baby.

Emma Brockwell adds, “Your belly button should not move up, just in a little, and you shouldn’t see any gripping around your lower ribs”.

What core exercises are safe?

This differs from person to person. Generally, crunches and sit-ups should be avoided after 12 weeks. Some women can tolerate planks throughout their whole pregnancy. However, lots of people like to avoid them. Exercises like squats and lunges are deemed to be the safest form. But if you want to be sure, then it’s best to check in with a prenatal fitness expert or physio to receive a personalised recommendation. James Duigan also offers a very comprehensive guide in his book Clean & Lean Pregnancy Guide.

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