Guidelines For Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercising through PregnancyCongratulations! You have just found out that you are pregnant and are more than likely over the moon and ready for the challenges and joys that come with being pregnant. One aspect that often concerns soon to be moms is the issue of weight gain during pregnancy.

Durban based biokineticist, Schalk van der Merwe, explained that, in his profession he is often approached by women petrified of gaining too much weight during pregnancy and wanting to know how they can keep their weight gain to a minimum.

It’s important to first chat to your gynaecologist or obstetrician, who is the most important person in your medical armoury at this point. He or she must be consulted on everything during your pregnancy and, if wanting to embark upon any form of exercise, you need to get their medical clearance first. Once medical clearance is given, you can visit a registered biokineticist, who can advise you on safe training habits during your term.

However, there are some simple guidelines that you can follow.


First trimester

This is the most critical period of your pregnancy. The first three months is when the pregnancy is at its most vulnerable. Van der Merwe stated that, upon hearing they are pregnant, many women want to embark upon a stringent training program because they do not want to pick up weight. However, this is a big misconception.  Training during pregnancy should be in order to remain fit and healthy, and to provide a good environment for the growing baby. Weight gain during pregnancy is inevitable and cannot be avoided.

Van der Merwe suggested low-impact exercise during the first trimester. This could include walking, cycling or swimming up to 4 times a week. The heart rate should not go above 140bpm and it’s important to ensure that the body temperature does not go up too high. Opt to train during cooler times of the day or in well-ventilated areas, and wear loose-fitting clothing.

Try to ensure that you have something to eat at least 30 minutes before your training session, although this may sometimes be difficult when dealing with morning sickness and nausea. Also be sure to drink plenty of fluids. This will regulate your body temperature and keep you well hydrated.

It is important to monitor your blood pressure. This should be checked before and after exercise sessions. Higher blood pressure should require a decrease in exercise intensity.


Second trimester

By now, your pregnancy is more stable and things are going well. It’s recommended that you continue with training as normally as possible, but keeping exercise sessions no longer than 45 minutes at a time. If time permits, this could even be done on a daily basis. Van der Merwe explained that regular cardiovascular exercise ensures good blood supply and oxygen to the foetus.

However, due to an increase in size, certain exercises may need to be adapted during this phase. An important aspect regarding this is doing exercise in a lying down position. Evidence suggests that the umbilical cord could sometimes be pinched by the weight of the embryonic sack, thus depriving the baby of oxygen for a certain amount of time. It’s therefore advised that exercise be done in a seated or standing position during this phase.

At this time, it is also important to cut back on stretching exercises. While remaining flexible is important, the body is readying itself for the delivery process and, in doing so, certain ligaments and tendons become hyper mobile. Therefore, not much stretching is needed.

Weight training can be continued as it is important to maintain good muscle tone and strength. Focus on strengthening all the large muscle groups. Keep the weight relatively light and increase the repetitions and sets instead. Aquarobics, walking and cycling are also important. However, from an injury point of view, it’s advisable that you start easing up on the high intensity options such as aerobic classes, step classes and spinning.


Third trimester

This is the final stretch of the pregnancy. By this stage the body is going to be in an uncomfortable period. It’s important to play each training session by ear. One’s level of fatigue and irritability during this stage will fluctuate daily and, therefore, every training session should be based around how you are feeling on the day. Rest during this period is vital, so perhaps cut training down to 2 -3 days a week. Stick to activities that will get you breathing a little harder and help with circulation. Walking and swimming are optimal.

If all has gone well during your training, it’s not uncommon to be able to train throughout your pregnancy. However, when you have your check up with your gynae, it is important to see how they feel regarding continuing with the exercise. At the end of the day, his or her word is law.

Remember, training during pregnancy is not about trying to keep the weight down, but instead to maintain a good, healthy environment for the little one to develop.

-It is important that you, as an expecting mother, remain healthy and strong, said van der Merwe. -The birth giving process and delivery of a baby, as beautiful as it is, is a tough and difficult process, and one has to be well prepared for it physically.

Being fit during pregnancy also ensures that, once the baby is born, your body will return to its pre-pregnancy state a lot quicker.


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