18 Oct Exercise in Pregnancy
We hear about the benefits of exercise almost constantly, from the media, our friends, families, doctors, and health professionals. However, when it comes to exercise during pregnancy the message can sometimes get a little mixed. Look through any gossip magazine and find celebrity women get attacked for gaining “too much” baby weight on one page, then to the next and athletes and fitness celebrities are getting criticized for their more extreme exercise regimes. It can be hard to know what is helpful and what may be harmful with all the different information out there. It is always best to seek advice from your doctor as each woman, and each pregnancy is special and different, however as a general rule it is important and beneficial to continue exercise to an intensity that fits with the amount of exercise done prior to your pregnancy.
Some of the major benefits of exercise during pregnancy include; a shorter time taken to recover after birth and resume common activities of daily living,3 a reduction in the amount of weight gained during your pregnancy, maintenance of your own health which helps maintain your baby’s health, and who doesn’t love the exercise high, enjoy those endorphins and a happier pregnancy. While you may be nervous about moving about too much, exercise has been shown to not increase the risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery.4
Specific changes that occur during pregnancy include; a relaxation of the joints, a loss in balance, and a greater need for oxygen.4 All these things should be considered when deciding on the types of exercise you want to undertake. Looser joints increase risk of injury when performing some high impact activities. A change in your centre of gravity can increase your risk of falls and an increase in demand for oxygen can leave you short of breath faster than before.4 Some pregnancy favourites include; swimming, stationary biking, prenatal yoga, walking, water aerobics, and even weight training when done properly.
For the inactive mother: Aim for low impact exercise 3 times per week for about 30 minutes. The intensity you should be working at is a moderately hard level with a heart rate of 65-75% of your maximum. To easily work out your maximum heart rate use the calculation of 220 – your age. 5
For the previously recreationally active mother: You may up the frequency to 3-5 times a week, for 30-60 minutes. Same types of exercise as above plus some other activities you were already doing prior to pregnancy. The intensity can be from moderately hard to hard with a heart rate of 65-80% of your maximum.5
For the elite athlete: You may up the frequency again to 4-6 times a week, for 60 – 90 minutes. Including the above activities and some competitive activities. The intensity may also increase to hard with a heart rate 75 – 80% of your maximum.5
Running is always a hot topic when it comes to pregnancy, however if you were a runner before your pregnancy it is often fine to continue, as long as you feel comfortable. 6
Remain hydrated and well-nourished, and avoid overheating, and exercises lying directly on your back after the first trimester.2
It is also important to check with your doctor before devising an exercise plan as some pregnancies have complications which can contraindicate exercise altogether. These guidelines are generalised for healthy typical pregnancies.
Exercise should not be scary during pregnancy; it has been shown that the amount of exercise performed during a pregnancy can be directly related to the mother’s beliefs around safety.1 So talk with your doctor and make a plan to stay fit and healthy while preparing to welcome your beautiful new baby to the world.
- Duncombe D, Wertheim EH, Skouteris H, Paxton SJ, Kelly L. Factors related to exercise over the course of pregnancy including women’s beliefs about the safety of exercise during pregnancy. Midwifery. 2009 Aug;25(4):430-8.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 2002 Jan;77 pg 79-81.
- Price, B, Amini S, Kappeler, K. Exercise in Pregnancy: Effect on Fitness and Obstetric Outcomes – A Randomized Trial. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2012 Dec; 44(12):2263-2269.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Exercise during pregnancy. 2016 from: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-During-Pregnancy#should
- Paisley, T, Joy, E, Price Jr, R. Exercise during pregnancy: A practical approach. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2003, (2): 325 – 330.
- The Baby Centre, Running During Pregnancy. 2016 from: http://www.babycenter.com/0_running-during-pregnancy_7877.bc