Reasons Why Exercise Can Benefit You During Pregnancy and How to Do It Safely
What are the Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy?
Keeping active during pregnancy is good for you in so many ways and is perfectly safe for you and your baby to do. If you are a regular gym-goer or pavement pounder, it is important to keep up your normal daily exercise or physical activity for as long as you feel comfortable. If you have never exercised before, you can start an exercise programme during pregnancy but only after following advice from your health care provider.
The Royal College of Midwives recommends up to 30 minutes of light-to-moderate intensity exercise each day during pregnancy. There are many health benefits from exercising during pregnancy which can take effect both during and after pregnancy. These are:
Pregnancy can make you feel exhausted, especially during the first and last trimesters. Light exercise can give you an energy boost and make you feel less tired during the day. Exercise may also help you to sleep better at night.
Regular exercise can reduce maternal weight gain and prevent complications this causes. Exercise can also help your body return to its pre-pregnancy state quicker and help you to maintain a healthy weight. However, it is important that you consume enough extra calories when exercising in pregnancy to help you and your baby stay healthy.
Preparation for your Body
Exercise can help your body prepare for labour and the birthing process. The stronger and fitter your body is, the better you will be to cope with the demands ahead. It is also thought that exercise can increase the chance of a vaginal delivery.
Pregnancy can sometimes cause back and neck pain which may be eased with regular exercise. With your muscles being active and stretched, your body will be able to adapt better to the changes which your body goes through.
Reduces Risk of Complications
Regular exercise can help lower the risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. Exercise can also help you to maintain regular digestive function and reduce constipation.
Regular exercise can improve your mood and therefore can improve your self-esteem and help to reduce or prevent symptoms of anxiety and depression.
What Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy
Although it is perfectly safe for you and your baby when exercising during pregnancy, there are some activities which are not recommended. These include sports which involve risk of falls or injury, particularly strenuous exercises, deep underwater activities and contact or collision sports.
If you experience any of the following, stop exercising immediately and contact your midwife or doctor if you become concerned:
- Chest, leg or stomach pains
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Shortness of breath
- Vaginal bleeding or discharge
- Difficulty with balance or walking
If you start to feel a difference in your baby’s movements, take a rest from exercise and monitor them closely. This shouldn’t provide cause for concern but if you are worried, contact your midwife or doctor.
What Exercises Are There?
The best type of exercise to perform during pregnancy is light-to-moderate exercise which includes brisk walking, swimming, specific antenatal exercise classes such as yoga or Pilates and stationary cycling.
Aim for around 30 minutes of exercise per day which can either be continuous or broken down into three 10 minute sessions. You should be able to maintain a conversation during exercise but make sure it gets your heart pumping.
You can combine different types of exercises, such as aerobic and anaerobic, but make sure that you do not exercise to exhaustion.
To find out more about which exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, visit the NHS page on Exercise in Pregnancy.
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