Should I Exercise when Pregnant?
If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, the answer is a resounding yes!
Women who have a high-risk pregnancy should consult their caregivers for individual advice.
Here are some of the benefits of exercising during pregnancy:
There is good evidence that pregnancy exercise prevents excessive weight gain.
Exercising while pregnant probably reduces the chance of you suffering low back pain and pelvic girdle pain such as symphysis pubis dysfunction, round ligament pain, sacral pain, and SIJ pain.
Women who exercise in pregnancy have a lower rate of depression and postnatal depression.
If you exercise in pregnancy, you are less likely to develop pregnancy diabetes (GDM). You are also less likely to develop high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia.
When it comes to the actual delivery, pregnant women who have exercised are less likely to have a large baby, less likely to birth a premature baby, less likely to have an unplanned caesarean, and less likely to need forceps.
Unfortunately, only one third of pregnant women exercise at sufficient frequency and intensity to reap these benefits.
How Much Exercise Should I do in Pregnancy?
Current guidelines for pregnant women suggest accumulating 150-300mins of moderate intensity exercise per week. This is best spread over 3-5 or 6 days of the week.
If you haven’t exercised before, you are encouraged to start with 15-20 mins of low intensity exercise such as walking, building up to 30mins before increasing the intensity to a moderate level.
For women who are already somewhat fit, moderate intensity exercise is ideal. The easiest way to know if your exercise intensity is ‘moderate’ is to do the talk test- if you can’t talk, you are probably going too hard. If you can sing, you are probably taking it too easy! You can also determine your exercise intensity by measuring your maximum heart rate during exercise. Your target heart rate for moderate intensity exercise depends on your age and is
calculated as 70% of your maximum heart rate. The calculation is: (220-your age) x 0.7 beats per minute. In this scenario, a pregnant women who is 30 would have a target heart rate of (220-30) x 0.7, or 133 beats per minute.
What Kind of Exercise is Best in Pregnancy?
Pelvic ligaments get looser in pregnancy, so it is a good idea to avoid exercises that involve twisting, turning and jumping. Choose non-contact options, and activities that have a low risk of falling so you don’t hurt the joints in your pelvis.
Activities involving atmospheric pressure changes (scuba diving and sky diving) should absolutely be avoided. It is a good idea to avoid exercising on your back from 22 weeks onwards, as blood flow to the baby may decrease.
The connective tissue inside your pelvis also gets looser during pregnancy, so avoid lifting heavy weights and any activity that makes you hold your breath. Your bladder and bowel will thank you for it later!
Stay cool! Your core temperature should stay between 36 and 39 degrees. Overheating can be prevented by maintaining hydration, exercising in the coolest part of the day in summer, and exercising in air-conditioning during humid weather. Stay out of water that is over 32 degrees, and limit any pool session to under 45mins.
If you need individual advice about exercising safely in pregnancy, please come and see one of our physiotherapists. If pelvic pain or a weak bladder, or vaginal heaviness or prolapse is holding you back from exercising in your pregnancy, we can also help! Book online today.