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physical fitness during pregnancy

Maintaining Physical Fitness During Pregnancy

Regardless of the motivation, exercise is essential for physical and emotional wellbeing, and pregnant women should continue working on their physical fitness during pregnancy.  To attain the maximum benefit, and do it safely, exercise should be done under professional supervision or guidance. Just as one consults a qualified trainer to assist with specific fitness issues or attain specific fitness goals, professional consultation when planning your exercise regime during pregnancy is of utmost importance.

Exercise during pregnancy has numerous physical and emotional benefits. A good exercise program may help relieve some common problems associated with pregnancy, including excessive weight gain, swelling of hands and feet, leg cramps, varicose veins, insomnia, fatigue, back pain, and constipation.

Here are a few important guidelines for planning your pregnancy fitness program:

Consult with your doctor:

Before you get started on a pregnancy fitness program, consult with your doctor. Your physician will evaluate your fitness level in relation to your pregnancy and advise accordingly.

Consult a qualified fitness instructor:

It is very important to do a background check, or get a trainer recommended by a friend, before taking advice from a fitness instructor. Your fitness instructor should have at least a generic health and fitness certification. Not all certifications cover dealing with special populations – which usually include pre- and post-natal – cover fitness training for pregnant women. An experienced instructor will consult with you and develop a regressive three-trimester exercise program, based on your exercise history and current level of fitness. He will also want your physician’s approval or a Consent to Exercise form before you begin an exercise regime.

Understand your body

Do not go overboard or push yourself beyond your limits. Be aware of your fitness level and do not start with a strenuous regime if you are not used to it. While exercising during pregnancy you should be aware of the changes your body is going through – in particular, a changing body alignment, as your centre of gravity changes, and reduced strength and endurance. Your fitness regime should be a well-designed exercise program that focuses on improving your posture, aids circulation, strengthens your core to ease back pain, and increases your energy levels.

Keep Moving Every Other Day:

Based on approval from your physician, your exercise history and current fitness levels, you can engage in low-impact aerobic exercise as often as you like. But don’t overdo it; if you are feeling exhausted, avoid any strenuous form of exercise – go for a gentle walk or swim instead. Heavy and high-impact cardio exercises like Zumba, Bollybox, and other high-impact aerobics should be avoided. Sports, such as horseback riding, skiing, volleyball and football, where there is high risk of injury or falls, should also be avoided during pregnancy.

Water Relief:

Exercising in water (swimming or low impact aqua aerobics) is a wonderful and safe way to support your weight, and reduce any feelings of clumsiness or lack of balance. Swimming and other water exercises place muscles in a relaxed, non-weight-bearing position, providing relief to those with increased weight, pressure, and stress, due to pregnancy. To avoid dehydration, it is important to remember to drink plenty of water during water-based exercise.

Do not forget to warm up and cool down:

Your fitness program should begin with a series of warm-up exercises and dynamic stretches that focus on the hip, neck, shoulders, and lower back in particular. Cooling down (bring heart rate back to normal) is just as important as the warm up.

Position for floor exercises:

Any abdominal exercises should be modified to reduce strain.  For example, because of the risks associated with exercising on your back, your side is a good position for floor exercises.  Pregnant women should avoid full sit-ups that compress the abdomen, and planks that allow the abdomen to hang and could cause back pain.  For some exercises, pregnant women may want to use a small bolster pillow under the lower back for support.

Listen to your body and stay cautious

If you experience any of the following symptoms, stop exercising and contact your physician:

  • Increased uterine contractions
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Amniotic fluid leakage
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Back or hip pain
  • Difficulty walking
  • General swelling or edema
  • Numbness anywhere in your body.

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