Exercising during pregnancy

Posted on Mar 5th, 2013

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or newbie at the gym, we show you how to exercises safely throughout your pregnancy.

We all know that exercise brings with it a host of health benefits. In fact, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine, women who maintain exercise throughout their pregnancies manage to keep their weight in check and improve their overall fitness.

Keep these rules in mind while enjoying your exercise routine:

1. Get the go-ahead from your doctor
If you exercised regularly before getting pregnant and your pregnancy is uncomplicated, you can most likely continue working out as before. Recent guidelines by the American College of Sports Medicine along with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention indicate that it’s safe for pregnant women to enjoy some form of moderate exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week. “In some high-risk cases however, it’s not okay to exercise during pregnancy, so talk to your doctor or midwife about your fitness routine to make sure your activities don’t put you or your baby at risk,” advises Fitness expert, Lisa Raleigh.

2. Stay in the safe zone
“Relying solely on heart rate guidelines to determine how hard you push during a workout isn’t entirely accurate, as each person is unique based on genetic factors, age and previous exercise history,” says Mariaan van Aswegen.
In past years, experts recommended that a pregnant woman’s heart rate not exceed 140 beats per minute, but for the first trimester, these restrictions have since been lifted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. “Now experts agree it’s safe to keep your heart rate to between 140 – 155 beats per minute at a moderate to above-moderate intensity.
Measure your heart rate with a monitor, or simply check your pulse rate by counting the number of beats for 15 seconds and multiplying by four.

Safety tip:
Some women experience sensations after exercise. Be aware of uterine of uterine contractions after your session, says Mariaan. Stimulation of the uterus through exercise might cause contractions or tightening. If they become increasingly painful, seek medical advice immediately.

3. Monitor your intensity
Make sure to slowly decrease high-intensity training as you move through your second and third trimesters.
According to researchers from the Journal of Sports Medicine, on the Borg RPE (rated perceived exertion) scale, the intensity of exercise for pregnant women is recommended to be 12-14 out of 20. So, from a rating of 6, which is no exertion at all, to 20, maximum exertion, pregnant women should fall somewhere in the middle to achieve the health benefits of exercise without risk.
If you experience any complications during your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about your exercise routine.

4. Choose the right exercises
Lisa points out those activities which require quick changes of direction put stress on your joints and muscles, so steer clear of racquet and contact sports like squash, soccer and hockey.
“Anything that increases your risk of falling, like mountain biking, gymnastics, skiing or horseback riding should also be avoided,” she says.
However, strengthening exercises such as yoga and Pilates are recommended as they encourage you to breathe and relax, which in turn can help you to adjust to the physical demands of pregnancy, labour and childbirth.
If you prefer to work up a sweat, opt for full body exercises that stimulate large muscle groups such as stationary cycling, swimming, walking or jogging.

5. Strength training
Even if you’ve never lifted a dumbbell before, you can start while pregnant, provided you’ve been cleared by your doctor and are being advised by a professional. The purpose of strength training during pregnancy is to maintain your strength and endurance, not build it, adds Lisa. As you progress through your trimesters, reduce your weights slightly and include more reps. This is because heavy weights may overload joints already loosened by increased levels of the hormone relaxin during pregnancy. In addition to dumbells, resistance bands are just as effective.

Lisa’s top tips for abdominal training:
Regular abdominal exercises like sit-ups and crunches are fine in your first trimester, but you’ll have to modify your workout as baby grows.
In your second and third trimesters, avoid tummy exercises that require you to lie on your back. Stick to core exercises that you can do sitting, standing or on all fours.

 

Some great calorie-crunching exercises you can do anywhere: 
Brisk walk on the beach – 504 cal per hour
Pushing a pram briskly – 315 cal per hour
Swimming laps – 423 cal per hour
Moderate road cycling – 292 cal per hour.

Click here for tips on what to wear while exercising.