Breaking a sweat: what about exercise during pregnancy?

We’ve all heard that fitness and nutrition work hand in hand for a healthy lifestyle, and this applies even more during pregnancy. Moderate intensity aerobic (e.g. walking, swimming) or muscle strengthening activities are considered safe for most people and are encouraged during pregnancy. Keeping physically active during pregnancy can help keep your weight under control, give you more strength for labour and even make it easier to recover after the birth.

The Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults recommend pregnant women aim to do 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity spread over at least 3 days per week (preferably some activity every day). Just make sure you take it easy and consult your doctor or midwife before you start any exercise program. Also you will need to adapt your exercise activities as your body changes during pregnancy.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Active lifestyle – if you’re used to moderate intensity exercise and your pregnancy is problem free, there’s no reason you can’t carry on, so long as you’re comfortable.

If you are competing in events or exercising significantly more at vigorous to high intensities, seek advice from a health care professional with specialist knowledge about activity during pregnancy.

Being gentle - it’s best to avoid high risk sports and exercise like horse riding, squash and skiing until after you’ve given birth. This is because of the risk of collision, falling or injury, which could impact on your baby. You should also steer clear of exercises that put lots of strain on your abdominal muscles, like stomach crunches. 

Mostly inactive - if you’re not used to regular exercise, now’s definitely not the time to start a strenuous regime. Start slowly and build up your activity with gentle activities like walking, swimming and yoga, which are suitable for all stages of pregnancy.  All physical activity counts too such as walking to work or for active transport.

Keeping sensible - whatever exercise you do, you need to stop immediately if you feel overheated, sick, and faint, or you have any pain. If it doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t. If you’re in a class, just make sure that your instructor knows you’re pregnant before you start.  Also make sure you drink plenty of water when exercising.

One exercise to rule them all - pelvic floor exercises are a good choice during and after pregnancy and done regularly can keep pelvic floor muscles strong to help avoid urinary incontinence. The Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults advise that pregnant women can benefit from doing stretching and pelvic floor muscle training daily. 

Ask the experts - If you have any pre-existing health conditions, concerns or questions about physical activity, always check with you doctor or lead maternity carer. You should also run it by them before you start any new routine.

 

References:

Ministry of Health. 2020.  Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults. Updated 2020. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.

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