Saying that there are a lot of decisions to make during pregnancy would be an understatement. The decision whether or not to exercise during pregnancy can be influenced by lack of information, conflicting information, cultural beliefs and personal feelings.
Why exercise during pregnancy?
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynacologists of Canada (SOGC) work together with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) and leading researchers in the field to create national guidelines and recommendations. The consensus is that all healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies should do regular cardiovascular exercise and muscular conditioning, regardless of previous activity level or trimester. Why? Research points to reduced aches and pain, shortness of breath, swelling and varicose veins. It also points to improved energy, posture, mood and general health. Regular exercise also plays an important role in preventing and managing gestational diabetes and has shown to improve the cardiovascular health of babies. In fact, The American College of Sport Medicine and other researchers suggest that exercise is medicine for pregnant women.
What should I focus on?
Cardio: If you are a beginner, aim for 15 minutes of low impact cardiovascular exercise, 4 times a week. For example power walking, low impact aerobics or aquafit. Be sure to warm up, cool down and stretch. If you are already active, continue with the cardiovascular exercise you are used to (assuming it does not put you at risk of falling or physical contact) but stick to the maximum 30 minutes, 4 times a week guideline. Use the PARmed-X for Pregnancy form to monitor intensity.
Strength: You need to be strong for pregnancy, labour and parenting. Seek out out a prenatal fitness class or personal trainer who is certified to work with pregnant women. They can help set up a well-rounded program that is both safe and effective.
Flexibility: Modern life and parenting both use more push muscles than pull muscles. To put it another way, the muscles of the chest, biceps and front of the shoulders tend to be tighter than the muscles of the back, triceps and back of the shoulder. Keep this in mind when choosing your stretches.
What should I avoid?
When it comes to cardio, avoid activities you are not used to or that put you in danger of falling, physical contact or overheating. Stick to the guidelines on the PARmed-X for Pregnancy form.
Avoid lying flat on your back for fitness from 16 weeks of pregnancy. It could interrupt blood flow and leave you feeling dizzy or nauseated. If you are diagnosed with an abdominal separation, avoid exercises that engage your ‘six-pack muscles’. Stay away from abdominal curls, crunches, sit-ups, push-ups or front planks. Instead focus on pelvic floor (Kegels) and transverses abdominals (hugging baby towards your spine).
Here are some resources to get you started
About the author
Melanie Osmack is the founder and director of Fit 4 Two®. She is a certified pre and postnatal fitness specialist, personal trainer, fitness instructor, yoga teacher and mom of two. Fit 4 Two offers classes and personal training throughout the lower mainland. Click here for a full listing.