There are a lot of good reasons to keep active during pregnancy. It helps improve muscle tone, strength and endurance, which may make it easier for the mother-to-be to adapt to the changes that pregnancy brings.
Regular exercise will:
- Help the mother to carry the weight she will gain during pregnancy
- Prepare her for the physical challenge of labor and birth
- Improve her mood and give her energy
- Help her sleep better
- Help her get back into shape after her baby is born
Many activities, such as running and weight training, are fine in the beginning, but it needs to be modified as the mother grows bigger. The ideal exercise in pregnancy should get the heart thumping and keep the mother supple, without causing physical stress.
A combination of aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening exercise will benefit the mother-to-be. Aerobics will work the heart and lungs and the muscle-strengthening will improve her strength, flexibility and posture. To get the best and full benefit, exercising at least three times a week is ideal. Finding something that one likes and enjoys will make it easier to stick to it in the long term.
Before starting any exercise that is new, it is important to talk to your doctor or a physiotherapist. The following exercises are safe during pregnancy though some may not be suitable as the pregnancy progresses.
- Walking: Brisk walking keeps you fit without causing much stress on your knees and ankles, giving your heart a workout too. Made into a daily routine will be beneficial throughout pregnancy. Aim to walk at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week.
- Running: It is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to work the heart and body. If running is new to you, pregnancy is not the time to start.
- Swimming: Swimming is an ideal and safe form of exercise in pregnancy. It not only exercises the arms and legs, it works the heart and lungs too. The bigger the bump, the more you will enjoy feeling weightless in water.
- Aqua aerobics or aqua natal class: Exercising while standing in water is gentle on the joints and supports the bump. It helps ease back pain and swelling in the legs in late pregnancy.
- Yoga: Pregnancy yoga helps to maintain muscle tone and flexibility and improve posture. Make sure that the yoga teacher is experienced in providing advice for pregnant women. The exercises will help with relaxation and breathing techniques, which will help during labor.
- Pilates: Pilates exercises strengthens your stomach and pelvic floor muscles, or what is known as the “stable core”. Pilates targets the muscles that can weaken during pregnancy.
- Weight training: If weight training was part of your exercise routine, there is no reason to stop now that you are pregnant. Done carefully and under supervision, it helps tone and strengthens the muscles.
- Aerobics: Aerobics is safe as long as you keep the exercises low impact, to protect your joints.
- Dance: You can carry on with your dance class if you did it regularly before you were pregnant. Try not to leap, jump, twirl or change direction suddenly, as you may lose your balance.
- Pelvic floor exercise: If you have weak pelvic floor muscles, you may leak small amounts of urine when you exercise, cough or sneeze (stress incontinence). Doing pelvic floor exercise everyday will prevent this from happening.
One should build activity into one’s daily life. Simple exercises like taking the stairs instead of the lift, doing household work and gardening counts as exercise. Avoid doing sports where there is a risk of hitting the bump, or of slipping and falling, such as squash, gymnastics, rollerblading, horse riding and skiing.