One thing I love about being a personal trainer is the diversity of my clients. Whether it is they have different fitness goals, or they are just in different stages of their life. The one thing we all have in common, is that we want to be healthy. This is perhaps never more applicable for pregnant women. Recently I have had 2 clients confirm their joy of becoming pregnant (congratulations again from everyone at At Home Fitness). With so many new and exciting things to consider for next stage in life, I want to take this time to contemplate the implications of exercise during pregnancy.
There are so many benefits of exercise during pregnancy;
• Increase in energy levels to fight against typical pregnancy fatigue. Such tiredness is often prevalent in the first and third trimesters. Keeping up with a suitable training regime, will actually help maintain energy levels and reduce fatigue. It really is a case of the fitter you are.
• Improve sleep. Many pregnant women state they have a difficult time sleeping. Not simply because of increase toilet trips, but simply that their sleep quality is diminished. Research indicates that those women participating in regular exercise during pregnancy find that sleep patterns are improved and when they wake up, they feel more rested. An important point here though is to avoid exercise to close to bed time, as this can cause a slight energy spike and therefore hinder sleep. So don’t put it off until it’s too late.
• Create stress relief. Another common side effect to being pregnant is an increase in stress levels. This of course is entirely normally and completely justified. That being said, it’s obviously not healthy for the baby. Exercise is proven to release endorphins within your brain to help improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. It’s what people call a natural high.
• Healthy baby! Research confirms that mothers who exercise during pregnancy give birth to babies with a healthier weight. They are also able to better cope with the rigours of labour and delivery, and in fact recover from said stresses more quickly and effectively.
There are many more (too many to really adequately go into today). For me, these are 4 of the main reasons to continue exercising throughout pregnancy.
That being said, there are a number of essential things to consider. First and foremost, only exercise under the instruction of a qualified professional. At Home Fitness have a number of qualified mobile personal trainer professionals who will all be more than happy to offer advice during all stages of pregnancy. This is a vital point that I really want to highlight, because as well as the aforementioned benefits, there are a number of risks to consider. Nothing is more important than the safety of mother and child.
A few things to consider are;
• What stage of pregnancy are you? Depending on whether you are first, second or third trimester, will impact upon what you should or should not do. Each trimester is different and your exercise in each period should reflect this.
• Your body is changing and as a result certain hormones will be produced at different levels to normal. One such hormone to be aware of is relaxin. Relaxin softens ligaments and tissues to help increase flexibility in the pelvic and lower back regions to assist in birth. This increase essentially means you should avoid all stretching exercises after around the 10 week mark.
• Consider postural and ballistic impact being pregnant has on your body. Comfort needs to be a consideration. It is important to avoid adding to lower back pressure. A good rule of thumb is to avoid doing any supine exercises (exercises lying on back) after the first trimester. In line with this, any high impact exercise should also be removed from training programme (such as trampling, boxing, skipping, jumping). Running is a difficult one, as I know numerous women who have been able to jog during pregnancy and it hasn’t affected them in a negative way. I would suggest this is a case by case exercise to consider. In all honesty, I doubt many would want to or be able to effectively jog without discomfort into the second trimester, so that might indicate to you which side of the fence I sit.
Hopefully this has given you a good starting point to considering exercise during pregnancy. Please do speak to your GP before starting any exercise during pregnancy. As long as exercise is done in a suitably safe and productive manner, exercise during pregnancy is something that can be embraced (and dare I say enjoyed)!