Pregnant, tired, feeling a bit yuk? I get it, sister. Having worked through many of the common challenges from weeks 1 to 40 myself in 2016, I experienced first hand the mental, emotional, physiological and biomechanical changes that take place in the body and how this can affect the desire to exercise.
A growing bundle of joy pushing and displacing all of their mother’s internal organs plays havoc. Poor mummy is uncomfortable, breathless needing to pee, struggling to sleep, giving their partner belly-ache about their strange aches and pains. It is plain to see why many ladies throughout the trimesters feel thoroughly demotivated where it comes to fitness.
I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping active during pregnancy. That said, there is absolutely no need to run marathons or sweat buckets in the gym every day. Pregnancy fitness is all about doing enough to maintain or slightly improve, not significantly attempt to increase the core aspects of fitness.
For women of low to average fitness levels, the focus should be on doing enough physical activity to benefit the mother and developing baby, whilst training within safe and comfortable boundaries and making the necessary adaptations to ensure the preferred exercises are safe to do in pregnancy.
Those ladies of more advanced fitness levels are likely to be well body-conditioned heading into pregnancy and able to continue many of the exercises they loved to do before pregnancy. The need will be just to adapt and scale back the intensities of each exercise through each trimester.
Some popular exercises that are generally suitable for all include walking, swimming, pregnancy yoga and light resistance training. The usual recommended frequency is 3-4 days per week with intensity levels adjusted to suit each stage of pregnancy.
It is my recommendation to all pregnant women to consult with their doctor first, prior to talking with an antenatal specialised fitness professional in advance of commencing a pregnancy exercise plan. This is in order to establish the safe levels dependent on their current state of health and determine whether or not there are any of the medical contraindications which would exclude them from some, if not all, forms of exercise during pregnancy.
For women of good overall health and no pregnancy complications, here are my top 10 benefits of exercise in pregnancy, which serve as 10 good reasons to make pregnancy exercise a high priority.
1. Cardiovascular exercise helps maintain CV fitness levels which is beneficial through labour and helps make the postpartum "back to fitness" period a little easier. 2. Resistance training helps maintain muscular strength which is beneficial through the heavy third trimester, assists with a smoother delivery and sets the body up well for post partum recovery. 3. Core and pelvic floor conditioning helps strengthen the muscles used in pushing in the final stage of labour and also assists with swifter pelvic floor recovery after delivery. 4. Weight management is assisted by continuing to be active throughout pregnancy, to help ensure a healthy rate and quantity of weight gain is maintained. 5. Maintaining flexibility by doing stretching exercises and pregnancy yoga helps the body feel easier to move around and more supple. It also helps during labour. 6. Sleep quality is improved when regular exercise is undertaken, this is the same for almost every person not just pregnant women. 7. Improved Blood flow to the uterus occurs during physical activity, which benefits the growing bundle inside and helps them to thrive with quicker delivery of oxygen and nutrients. 9. Reduced tension and anxiety commonly occurs during and immediately after exercise. Those feel good hormones help put the mind in a more relaxed and positive place. 10. Increased self confidence commonly occurs when the body is active, as psychologically the benefits of exercise make a person feel better about themselves for doing it!
All of these benefits of exercise, both in my personal experience and in client case studies; help make those magic 9 months pass more pleasurably and smoothly. They also set up good habits and lay strong foundations to me make the postnatal recovery period more speedy and straightforward.