Pregnancy is a very unique time in any women’s life and during this time a woman experiences many changes. Physiological, anatomical and, emotional changes all present themselves and most of the time normal behaviours and routines end up changing. However, even with all these changes occurring, it is important to remember that habits adopted during pregnancy can affect a woman for the rest of her life. Along with all these changes, during this time women also have thousands of questions running through their heads. Is it normal to feel like this, can I still eat this, should I lie like this, and one of the most frequent questions; can I still exercise?
The short answer to this question is, yes. Yes, you can still exercise and in fact exercise is as important during pregnancy as it is when you are not pregnant.
Here is how you can go about incorporating exercise into your pregnancy.
The first thing to do is check with your health care provider:
If you exercised regularly before getting pregnant and you have no complications with your pregnancy you should be able to carry on working out as you had done before with very few modifications. If you did not work out before then you should start with beginner’s exercises and possibly seek the assistance of a health and fitness professional who can help guide you on where to start and what exercises you should and shouldn’t do. It is important to check with a health care provider before exercising because if there are any complications with your pregnancy exercise could both you and your baby at risk.
Once you have been cleared to exercise you can then use these guidelines to help you plan your exercise sessions:
Type of exercise:
Focus should be placed on exercises that improve and maintain your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal fitness levels. Therefore, both aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming and cycling as well as resistance exercises with light weights or bands should be included in the exercise program.
When pregnant you should avoid doing exercises that involve you lying for any prolonged period of time on your back.
This is one of the harder variables of exercise prescription to advise pregnant women on. To prescribe intensity to non-pregnant women a percentage of their maximum heart rate is usually used. However, during pregnancy a women’s heart rate response to exercise is often erratic and unreliable. For this reason, rate of perceived exertion is used when describing the desired level of intensity. For moderate intensity exercise during pregnancy your rate of perceived exertion should be between 12-14, which is considered somewhat hard. As the pregnancy progresses most women tend to voluntarily decrease the intensity of their workouts.
Duration of Exercise:
It is advised that pregnant women exercise from anywhere between 30-60 minutes.
It is just important to be aware of the temperature that you are exercising in, as your body’s ability to thermoregulate is jeopardize by the pregnancy. You should avoid exercising for prolonged periods in hot environments. You should also make sure you have adequate hydration as well as wear cool loose clothing.
It is recommended that you do an accumulation of at least 30 minutes of light to moderate intensity exercise every day.
Even though pregnancy is associated with numerous anatomical and physiological changes, there are very few instances that will prevent otherwise healthy, pregnant women from following the same recommendations.
For more information on how to exercise during pregnancy you can speak to your doctor or a health care professional such as a Biokineticist who will be able to guide you through appropriate exercises that are safe and that will best prepare you body for your pregnancy, labour and post partum recovery.
In our next post we will look at the benefits of exercising during pregnancy.