How To Exercise When You’re Pregnant


How do you exercise when you’re pregnant? Is it safe to do yoga? Run? Or should you tone it down while the baby grows? We bet these questions have run through your mind months, or even years, before falling pregnant. Exercise is not only something that is beneficial to our bodies physically, but on a mental level it can do wonders to lift our mood and energy as well. So how should you change your exercise routine during your nine months of pregnancy? We sat down with Emma Willox, personal trainer from popular Sydney gym, 98 Riley St to find out more.

How should a woman approach exercise once she becomes pregnant?
How a woman changes her exercise routine will depend on her level of fitness before her pregnancy. It will also be affected if the pregnancy is complicated in any way. If you exercise regularly before you fall pregnant you are allowed to keep up your exercise regime by making a few small adjustments. If, on the other hand, you weren’t on a fitness plan prior to falling pregnant, I wouldn’t recommend you give up on light exercise all together. Instead, I’d recommend beginning slowly and building up gradually, as you would any non-pregnant fitness plan, although you must always discuss this with your doctor or health care provider. Your body will also tell you how far you should take your exercise regime. Many women feel very tired in the first trimester, and if that’s how you feel, perhaps you should change your runs for walks, or your HIIT sessions for pilates or yoga. That way you’re still moving but you’re also listening to your body as well.

Are there any exercises that a pregnant woman shouldn't do?  
Coming into the second trimester the body produces a hormone called relaxin, which is responsible for loosening joints in preparation for your baby that’s growing inside. With this in mind I would advise steering clear of exercises that involve extreme stretches or high impact, as you will be more risk of strains and sprains due to the extra relaxin in the body. When weight training I sometimes suggest my clients sit on a swiss ball or bench, as it can make ladies who are pregnant feel light headed. This can be due to the total blood volume increasing and blood rushing to the legs while standing for long periods of time. Sitting down during your weights session eliminates any chance of this happening and you can still get your weight training done safely.

You should also avoid exercises that twist at the core, as it’s not good for the baby. Leg lifts, back bends, lying on your belly, or any poses that stress the abdomen or pelvic floor should also be avoided. I always encourage swimming as a relaxing and safe form of exercise. When you reach 20 weeks you should stop any exercises that require you to lie on your back; this includes some pilates, yoga, and weight lifting, as it can put pressure on the abdomen.

Is it true that a pregnant woman shouldn't let her heart rate reach over 130 while exercising?
Yes it is. I tend to find out my clients maximum heart rate by subtracting their age from 220 (that gives you your maximum heart rate), then I advise them to maintain 60 - 80% of their maximum heart rate during their session. If you’re not using a machine that monitors your heart rate you can simply feel for your pulse on your wrist or neck, count the number of beats for 30 seconds, multiply that number by two and that should give you your heart rate.

Is it safe to do abdominal work during pregnancy?
Your abdominals are your entire core and this includes your pelvic core, which are muscles that should be strengthened during pregnancy. During your first trimester you can lie still on your back and do gentle pelvic tilts and gentle bridges. After the first trimester I'd suggest doing gentle standing pelvic tilts and seated belly breathing connecting the deep abdominal muscles.

If you were a runner prior to pregnancy, is it safe to continue running during pregnancy too?
As long as you and your pregnancy are healthy then it is safe to continue running. During your second trimester though, as the body changes, so does your centre of gravity so I'd encourage flat ground for runs. If, at any stage, your runs don’t feel normal then you have to absolutely stop. This is your body telling you that something doesn’t feel right.

Is it true that you can be more susceptible to injuries when pregnant?
Yes. As I mentioned earlier, coming into your second trimester your body releases a hormone called relaxin; this hormone causes the joints to loosen, which can lead to sprains and strains.

What if you've never exercised before? Is it safe to start when you're pregnant? 
Yes but you have to build this up slowly. You could begin with some gentle walking, and then maybe build on that by adding some stairs into your walks. Pilates and yoga are a great way to start off too. As with all exercises or changes I highly recommend that you discuss your fitness plan with your doctor and always tell your personal trainer when you find out you are pregnant. I've often been one of the first people to know!

Words: Yadira Galarza Cauchi Photo: Julie Adams


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