Exercising safely during pregnancy
Qualified nutritionist, exercise scientist and personal trainer, Brooke Turner shares how you can exercise safely during pregnancy.
Exercising during pregnancy can be a controversial & confusing topic. When a woman falls pregnant that often immediately worry what exercise is safe and can they continue training in a way that they were pre-pregnancy?
This is one of the reasons I created my Exercise and Nutrition for Pregnancy eBook – to remove the confusion, providing clarity and confidence and empowering and educating Mums to continue exercising in a way that is safe, effective an ENJOYABLE!
Every woman’s pregnancy is unique.The below is suited to a low risk pregnancy and not tailored advice. Be sure to consult your Doctor, Specialist or Pre/Post Natal Fitness Specialist or contact Brooke prior to undertaking exercise if you're unsure what is right for you.
SAFE EXERCISES FOR PREGNANCY
RESISTANCE TRAINING - CROSSFIT, F45, STRENGTH TRAINING, WEIGHTS.
If you did any form of resistance training prior to pregnancy it's great to continue if you can! As your pregnancy progresses here are some key things you will need to modify to ensure your workout remains safe and suitable:
Reduce the load – even if you still feel physically strong enough to lift your pre pregnancy weights, as your pregnancy progresses your loads need to decrease. Instead you might
Increase the volume – lighter loads may mean you are able to complete more reps, so lighter weight and higher volume are great ways to train
Avoid back lying positions from 16 weeks – due to the risk of supine hypotension
Use of body weight, fit ball & resistance bands
Avoid standing overhead weighted movements
Increase rest periods
FIRST TRIMESTER: The key considerations for the first trimester include core body temperature and overheating which can increase the risk of miscarriage due to the babies organ development occurring during this time.
You can lift similar loads to your pre pregnant state, however your heart rate will rise faster than pre pregnancy and take longer to recover so ensure enough rest to allow for recovery being mindful of your exercise intensity.
SECOND TRIMESTER: Reduce the loads, avoid back lying positions from 12-16 weeks and incorporate the use of seated positions for over head loads towards end of this trimester (push presses). Be sure to incorporate regular pelvic floor and core specific movements.
THIRD TRIMESTER: The weights become lighter again and take a seat for all overhead movements to reduce the pressure through your core and support your back.
Take a narrow stance for squats and be mindful of unilateral movements if you have pelvic girdle or back pain. Lower body movements are great for helping prep for an active labour and of course incorporate regular pelvic floor and core specific movements.
CARDIO BASED TRAINING - GROUP FITNESS CLASSES, SPORT, CARDIO
When it comes to cardio, you need to reduce the impact of exercise as your pregnancy progresses. This is due to increased body weight placing additional load on the pelvic floor and being more prone to injuries due to the hormone relaxin within your body.
High impact activities can have negative effects on the pelvic floor and are best avoided or modified. I like to think of it as MIIT (moderate intensity interval training) over HIIT. Essentially you still train in a way that is HIIT in nature elevating your heart rate and then recovering, but it is all relative to your pre pregnancy fitness levels.
Low impact aerobics, swimming, walking, cycling are great cardio exercises for pregnancy.
Some things to consider for cardiovascular exercise during pregnancy:
FIRST TRIMESTER: Reduce the intensity, be mindful of your core body temperature and ensure adequate recovery.
SECOND TRIMESTER: From 12wks + (or earlier if you choose) avoid high impact exercise and contact sports. You can still perform HIIT style cardio, however rest periods will be longer than usual and work efforts will not be max effort (MIIT) .
THIRD TRIMESTER: think low impact, lower intensity, and less dynamic, more stable movements. You are on the home stretch now, there is great load on your core and pelvic floor, increased fatigue due to broken sleep and relaxin is rife through your body. Regular, gentle movement is great!
PILATES & YOGA
It's great to undertake these forms of training during pregnancy but I recommend doing so with a pre/post natal trained instructor.
Not only can they help to connect you with your breath and baby, they also offer amazing health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, helping to manage stress and anxiety, assist with labour prep and mindful birthing practices, strengthen both the body and mind and help to manage any pregnancy discomforts.
These forms of movement can also assist in the activation and connecting of mind and muscles of the pelvic floor and abdominals as they become stretched and loaded throughout pregnancy as well as assist with posture control.
Avoid bikram yoga and any postures that involve closed twists or over extension. A good instructor will make these modifications for you, and if you are not sure – ask!
See the table below for some great modifications to common exercises as your pregnancy progresses, just some of the information offered in my eBooks:
What to avoid:
High impact exercise
Supine lying from 16 weeks
Heavy overhead movements
Wide based stance & Single leg exercise (for pelvic girdle pain, sciatica)
High intensity exercise
Breath holding and bearing down
Excessive core training and forward flexion
My key piece of advice for all expecting Mums is that you are better off walking away from a workout thinking ‘I could’ve done more’ rather than ‘I may have overdone it’.
It's not a case of go hard or go home when it comes to exercise during pregnancy and now is not the time to be chasing personal bests. You don’t get a gold medal if you are still doing push ups on your toes at 39 weeks pregnant or high impact aerobics. Instead you are more likely to contribute to abdominal separation and/or pelvic floor dysfunction.
It's also not enough to ‘listen to your body’ – particularly if you are one of the lucky ladies who feels great during pregnancy! Whilst your body may still feel fabulous, modifications do need to be made to your exercise as pregnancy progresses due to all the wonderful changes occurring within your body.
Be sure to check out my range of Exercise and Nutrition for Pregnancy and Post-Partum eBooks HERE. Use the code FITBUMP to get 15% off
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