There are some general guidelines which outline which exercises are recommended for pregnant women and the appropriateness of these activities largely depend on the fitness level and previous exercise experience of the mother-to-be. This will give her a fair idea what intensity and type of exercise she can do or continue doing during pregnancy.
Some of the exercises that are appropriate during pregnancy are:
- Stationary cycling
- Weight training
There is a significant increase in body weight during pregnancy. The body changes that occur in a woman may interfere with the ability to engage in some types of exercise. Running, jogging can be uncomfortable too. Change in body weight distribution can alter balance and coordination in the sports and activities with which she was previously at ease. This can be dangerous too.
All exercise should begin with a warm-up and a cool-down period. The hormones produced during pregnancy make women especially flexible in preparation for childbirth. But this can lead to excessive stretching and pulling, thus causing injury. Stretching should be done very carefully and gently, especially after the first trimester.
As the pregnancy progresses, the body prepares for labor. The ligaments and joints around the pelvic region begin to loosen up. For this reason, activities which may impose a risk of injury in this area should be avoided. Jumping, jerky movements, quick changes of direction should be avoided.
Signs to stop exercise during pregnancy:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Contractions or preterm labor
Women should not over exert themselves as physiologically, during pregnancy, there is an increase in the heart rate. The decrease in blood pressure which generally occurs in pregnancy may also make some women “light-headed” and dizzy. So activities which involve balance may be difficult.
Low-risk pregnancies are those which are not constrained by medical or obstetric complications. Moderate intensity exercise for women with low-risk pregnancy is recommended for 30 minutes a day, five times a week.
Though “moderate intensity exercise” is subjective, it will depend on individual fitness levels.