Why exercising is important during pregnancy

By Mari-Lise Visser – Physiotherapist

Ever heard the phrase Rome was not build in a day? Or to see the view from the mountain top you must first climb one step at a time?

Pregnancy is your ‘Rome’ or your ‘mountain’ and some days the climb is going to be difficult and the building slow.  As a Physio I want to urge you to be more prepared for this.

While pregnant your hormones will take charge and one of these is the Relaxin hormone which lengthens your ligaments, especially around your pelvis, to make the labour process more effective.  This unfortunately can lead to an increase in backpain and pelvic girdle pain or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD).  But something can be done about it, and yes you have guessed it, EXERCISING!  Doing safe exercises while pregnant will strengthen the muscles that are needed to support your ever-changing posture during pregnancy and get you strong for the labour process.

What are the benefits of exercises while pregnant?

  • Keep the weight gain to the normal limit
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Decrease the risk of developing gestational diabetes
  • Decrease in tiredness
  • Decrease backpain/pelvic girdle pain
  • Build up stamina for the labour process
  • Increase in self confidence
  • Building up muscle memory in your pelvic and core muscles to help with the recovery process after birth.

Exercising while pregnant is not only good for you but also for your unborn baby.  Evidence has shown a positive impact on your baby’s developing heart and brain.  It has also shown an increase in their ability and willingness to move on their own later on.

When should you definitely not exercise while pregnant?

  • History of a miscarriage or a threatened miscarriage
  • History of early spontaneous labour or premature births
  • If you have Placenta Previa – where the placenta is lying too low in the uterus
  • If you have Pre-eclampsia
  • Bleeding during your pregnancy
  • Poor controlled Diabetes during pregnancy

Here are some things to look out for when you exercise during pregnancy:

  • Avoid activities where falling is likely (horseback riding, skiing, cycling on open road). Remember your balance is affected when you are pregnant
  • Contact sports such as netball, basketball, football etc.
  • Motionless activities, like some Yoga techniques, as blood flow can be restricted
  • Don’t lie on your back for more than 2 minutes, avoid lying on your back all together after 20 weeks of pregnancy
  • Avoid using your abdominal muscles in exercises like sit ups/roll ups, double leg lifts
  • High impact exercises such as aerobics especially if you have not done it before pregnancy
  • Avoid deep squatting or lunging if you are struggling with pelvic girdle pain
  • Avoid holding your breath while exercising

Pregnancy is such a wonderful and beautiful journey and you can make it the best possible experience for yourself when you exercise.

Here are some exercises you can do while pregnant:

    1. Squats: Posture tip:  keep feet hip width apart, whole foot in contact with the floor.  When you squat down stick your bum out so your knees are behind your toes.  Only go down as far as you can control
    2. Lunges: Posture tip: stand with one leg in front of the other so that when you drop your hips down vertically your back and front knee can both bend to about 90 degrees.  Keep weight central
    3. Side Lunges: Posture tip: open legs wide enough so that when you squat onto one leg your knee is staying behind your toes. Stick bum out and keep back straight.
    4. All fours leg extension: Posture tip: Keep weight equal over shoulders and hips, curl your tailbone in and pull bump in.  When you lift your leg keep your knee bent and foot parallel to the ceiling.  Do not arch your back when you lift.
    5. Seated upright rows: Posture tip:  keep back straight, when you pull the band back, keep your elbows parallel to the ground and tight to your side.  Let your shoulder blades ‘kiss’ each other.  Slowly let the band loose by straightening your arms

And lastly remember these please;

  • All exercise sessions should include a warm-up, a workout and a cool down
  • It is important to ensure your temperature does not get raised excessively during the exercising
  • Be ware of you heart rate while exercising, don’t let it exceed 70% of your maximum. 70% heart rate = (220-age) * 0.7
  • Remember the TALK-test, if you can still get your words out then you are still good to continue exercising
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated while exercising
  • Have fun and enjoy the routine while you gain your fitness!

While Covid-19 is around, and there is so little evidence out there regarding it and pregnancy, please exercise at home and avoid public classes for example at Gyms.  You are at high risk for severe Covid while you are pregnant so take extra precautions.

So why don’t you invite the Physio into your living room and go check out the free sessions on YouTube.  Then when you are ready sign up for the rest of the program.

Here is to a healthy, mobile and confident pregnancy!!

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