Pregnancy and Exercise

Previously pregnant women were discouraged from exercise, advised to rest, and not overexert themselves.

Today we know that exercise is safe for pregnant women and has many positive health benefits for both the mother and baby.

Pregnant women without complicated pregnancies are encouraged to participate in aerobic and strength training for both physical and mental wellbeing.

Pregnancy Exercise

What Are The Benefits:

As pregnancy progresses the shape and size of a woman’s body changes. Exercise can help manage the increased load placed on the joints, muscles, and ligaments.

Exercising throughout pregnancy can also:

  • Reduce risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and gestational hypertension
  • Reduce excessive weight gain.
  • Improve strength to support growth of the baby.
  • Improve post-natal recovery.
  • Improve mood.
  • Maintain fitness levels.
  • Assist with managing lower back pain and pregnancy related aches and pains.

How Much Exercise is Recommended for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women with uncomplicated pregnancies should aim to accumulate 150 minutes of moderate – intensity exercise each week (20-30 minutes each day).  Exercise should be accumulated over minimum of 3 days; however, daily exercise is encouraged.

If you are currently inactive it is recommended, you begin gradually. Start with 15 minutes of exercise 3 times per week, at an effort level of 5/10, and gradually increase the duration until you reach 150 minutes per week.

Women with high levels of fitness, who engaged in vigorous exercise before conceiving can continue their normal exercise regime, modifying exercises as the pregnancy progresses.  Exercises that elicit feelings of excessive fatigue or strain should be modified, and caution should be taken when exercising in the supine position especially after the first trimester.

Athletes or those who exercise at high intensities should consider tapering the intensity of their exercise, with a goal to maintain their fitness level, not achieve peak fitness. Athletes should also use caution when lifting in the supine position if side effects like dizziness or abdominal doming occur exercise should be modified.

Women who continue to exercise at high intensities should consult their obstetric care provider.

What Type of Exercise Should Pregnant Women Do 

Pregnant women are encouraged to incorporate both aerobic and resistance exercise

Aerobic exercise involves continuous activities that use large muscle groups. Aerobic exercise improves heart and lung function. Examples include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling (stationary cycling is recommended)
  • Rowing

Resistance exercise aims to increase muscular strength and should be included at least twice per week. You can use your body weight, free weights, resistance bands or machine weights.

For those new to exercise body weight or light weights are recommended.

Women participating in strength training prior to pregnancy can continue, modifying weights and exercises as required. During pregnancy strenuous weightlifting should be modified to avoid Valsalva manoeuvre.

High impact activities such as running and jumping increase pressure on the pelvic floor, be mindful of these activities and modify accordingly.

Reasons To Stop Exercising and Seek Medical Advice

If you have any concerns when exercising or experience any of the following symptoms, its best to stop and seek advice from your GP or medical specialist.

  • Abdominal pain or contractions.
  • Deep ache or heaviness in the abdominal or pelvic region
  • Dizziness or shortness of breath not related to exertion.
  • Sudden swelling of hands, ankles, or face.
  • Calf pain and/or swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Vaginal bleeding or amniotic fluid loss
  • Muscle weakness or excessive fatigue

Want To Know More?

This article was written by Precision Physio Exercise Physiologist Clare Belfanti, if you would like to know more, feel free to reach out to him or book an appointment with any Precision Physio Exercise Physiologist.

How Do I Book An Appointment?

We’re taking the health of our clients, members and staff very seriously and our preference would be for you to call to book an appointment so that we can make sure to explain our approach to keeping you safe. You can call any of these numbers to schedule a session:

Online Consultations

Evolving with the current environment, we are also now offering online appointments, meaning that we can support anyone who is unable to leave their home. Sessions are done via our state of the art Telehealth system and as long as you have a laptop or tablet with an inbuilt camera, or a phone with camera, we can help!

To learn more about online consultations, please call us on any of the numbers listed above.

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