Pregnant woman performing yoga

Throughout the pregnancy, a regular exercise regimen can be helpful to keep you feeling at your best and healthy. Your posture can also improve with regular exercise across your pregnancy as well as decrease some of the common discomforts like fatigue and backaches. Further, the evidence is also available to indicate that exercise could prevent gestational diabetes, build more stamina and relieve stress. For women who were used to physical activity before their pregnancy, continuing such activity in moderation should not pose any problem. However, they should not attempt exercising at the same level they were used to before pregnancy. Instead of high impact aerobics, it is desirable to choose low impact aerobics. If you are a competitive athlete who is pregnant, an obstetrician should be closely following you throughout your pregnancy.If you have never been used to exercise before getting pregnant, starting an exercise program during pregnancy is wholly safe when undertaken in consultation with your obstetrician or health care provider. However, this would not be an ideal period to try out any kind of strenuous new activity. The safest way to start an exercise regimen during pregnancy is to walk. For women who are not experiencing any specific complication, about 30 minutes moderate exercise every day is recommended.
Exercise is contraindicated for women who have a history of heart disease, asthma and diabetes. Similarly, all types of exercise should be undertaken only under medical advice in the following instances:-

  • Spotting or bleeding
  • Recurrent or threatened miscarriage
  • History of premature births or early labour
  • Weak Cervix

You should always take your health care provider into confidence before starting any type of exercise program during your pregnancy.

Safe exercises during pregnancy

During pregnancy, most exercises are safe so long as caution is added to it and you do not tend to overdo your exercise. Brisk walking and swimming are among the outdoor activities you can undertake safely while low-impact aerobics, elliptical machines, stationary cycling etc. are among the indoor activities that you can beneficially engage in. Most of these activities have very little injury risk and can benefit the whole body and can continue till your labour starts. Racquetball and tennis are also considered safe activities. However, rapid movements and balance may be impacted due to this, and therefore you must be pretty careful. Moderate jogging and other activities that call for minimal coordination and balance, particularly around the third trimester are also considered beneficial. You can also check out some sample exercises advised by Dr Shelley Rowlands, who is a pregnancy doctor at East Melbourne Obstetrics and Gynaecology (EMOG).
These exercises are best avoided during pregnancy
While exercising during pregnancy is generally desirable, you are better off avoiding the following exercises during pregnancy.

  • Holding the breath during any type of activity
  • Activities that present the potential for a fall (horseback riding for instance) are best avoided
  • Contact sports like football, volleyball, basket ball etc.
  • Exercises that can potentially cause abdominal trauma like a rapid change of direction, jarring motion etc. should be avoided.
  • Activities calling for extensive hopping, jumping, bouncing skipping or running.
  • Full sit-ups, deep bending of knees, raising of both legs and touching the leg toes from a straight up position
  • Bouncing during stretching
  • Movements that call for waist twisting from a standing position
  • Heavy spurts of exercise and no activity for long after that
  • Exercising in hot and humid weather.

An ideal pregnancy exercise program should consist of:-

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An ideal pregnancy exercise program should consist of:-
To achieve total fitness, your pregnancy exercises should focus on strengthening and conditioning your muscles. For this, you should always start with warming for about 5 minutes and stretch for another five minutes. A minimum of 15 minutes cardiovascular activity is also recommended. At the peak of your activity, your heart rate should be measured. Aerobic activity can then follow with 5 to 10 minutes of gradual and slower exercise ending with gentle stretching.

Exercise guidelines for pregnant women

The following are among basic exercise guidelines for pregnant women:-

  • Wear comfortable loose fitting clothing with a bra that offers good support
  • Choose shoes designed for the particular type of exercise that you do. Proper shoes afford the best protection against potential injuries
  • Choose a flat and level surface to keep off injuries
  • Ensure that your diet contains adequate calories to cater to your pregnancy. Add at least 300 calories more before you became pregnant.
  • Your exercise should start at least one hour after you have eaten
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, after, and during the workout
  • Get up gradually and slowly after floor exercises to prevent potential dizziness
  • Do not exercise till you get exhausted. If you experience difficulty in talking normally, possibly you are exerting beyond limits and should immediately slow down the activity.

How pregnancy changes can impact exercise

Your body may make extra demands due to the physical changes that occur during pregnancy. These changes are listed below and you should bear them in mind to listen to the dictates of your body and adjust your exercise and other activities accordingly.

  • Internal changes and the developing baby need more energy and oxygen.
  • Ligaments supporting the joints tend to stretch due to the hormones produced in the course of your pregnancy and that can enhance the injury risk.
  • The additional weight you carry on your body and its uneven distribution shifts the centre of gravity. Your joints also under greater stress due to the extra weight particularly around the pelvic area and lower back and that could impact your ability to balance yourself.

Warning signs about exercising during pregnancy

First aid kit

If you experience any of the following symptoms during your exercise regimen, you should immediately stop all forms of exercise and consult your doctor:-

  • Feeling pelvic or abdominal pain or contractions that persist
  • Feeling chest pain
  • Headache
  • Decrease or absence of foetal movement
  • Feeling nauseous, dizzy or light-headed
  • Feeling clammy or cold
  • Experiencing vaginal bleeding
  • Fluid gushing suddenly from the vagina or steady leak of fluid in trickles
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Sudden swelling in hands, face, ankles or calf pain
  • Short of breath
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Muscle weakness.