Exercising safely during pregnancy is likely to be a consideration or concern for many people when they learn they are expecting. Can you continue to exercise? What changes should you make? It’s important to look after yourself when you’re pregnant, and staying active can support you and your baby’s health. But it can be confusing to know what you can and can’t do when it comes to exercising.
In this article, Dr Don Grant (MB, ChB, DRCOG, MRCGP, Dip.orth.med), who is the clinical lead at The Independent Online Pharmacy, shares advice and recommendations for staying fit and safe during your pregnancy.
The information here is not designed to be a one size fits all guide and should not be used to treat or diagnose your own experiences. As always, you should make sure to consult a GP if you have any concerns.
Should you exercise while you’re pregnant?
There are some cases where your doctor might advise you to take it easy and reduce your activity levels, so it’s always important to consult with a medical professional and listen to their recommendations. But for the most part, it’s a good idea to stay active while you’re pregnant.
Exercising safely during pregnancy can do a lot to help support a healthy journey through all three trimesters, including reducing high blood pressure and lowering the risk of diabetes. It can also reduce the risk of developing varicose veins and ease swelling in the feet, hands, and ankles.
Staying active can also help you to manage your weight well during pregnancy and prepare your body for going through labour. You’ll also experience the same mental benefits from exercising as you would before you were pregnant. It can boost your mood, relieve stress, and help you to sleep better.
Don’t try to increase your fitness levels
One of the most important things when it comes to exercising safely during pregnancy is to maintain your current fitness levels. It’s not a good idea to try and get in shape or increase the intensity of your workouts during your pregnancy.
If you weren’t doing much regular exercise before you were pregnant, aim to do around 30 minutes of walking every day. This will keep you active without putting too much strain on your body when it’s not used to it.
What exercises can’t you do when you’re pregnant?
There are some things that you will have to avoid while you’re pregnant in order to keep yourself and your baby safe. This includes:
- Skiing, ice skating, horse riding, and any activity where there is a chance that you might fall. If you’re a regular and confident cyclist, it’s generally okay to continue as long as you’re careful, but you may find it harder to balance towards the end of your pregnancy.
- Contact sports such as martial arts, rugby, and boxing should be completely avoided as getting hit could obviously put your baby at risk.
- Exercises that require you to lie down on your back for more than three minutes, especially after the first 12 weeks, as these can make you feel faint.
- Using free weights, as there is the risk that you might drop them on your stomach. After 12 weeks, you also should avoid doing weighted sit-ups and using weights behind your neck.
Tips for exercising when pregnant
While it’s safe to carry on exercising through your pregnancy, it’s important to be careful and not push yourself too hard.
When you’re working out, you should be able to hold a conversation with someone without becoming breathless as you’re talking. If you are breathless, this indicates you are exercising too strenuously. Take a break or do an easier, less demanding exercise instead.
Some other key things to remember when exercising are:
- Take the time to properly warm up before and cool down after a workout or exercise
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- Don’t do any strenuous exercise when the weather is hot
- If you’re taking an exercise class, inform your instructor so that they can make any necessary adjustments to what they’re telling you to do
If you start to feel lightheaded when you’re exercising, stop and sit down immediately. And if you notice any other issues such as swelling in your legs, headaches, pain, or difficulty with your breathing, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
What are the best exercises during pregnancy?
Any activity that gets you moving is going to be beneficial, but there are a few things that you can do that help support your body as it changes or reduces the possible strain of exercising.
Swimming is a good way to stay fit as the water will support the extra weight as your baby grows. Low impact exercise such as a cycling workout can also be beneficial, but it does need to be done cautiously.
Pilates is another exercise that’s good for pregnancy as it can help you to maintain and improve balance and flexibility. And things like yoga can help your body in a similar way, as well as incorporating relaxation and breathing techniques that can boost your mental health.
Overall it’s a good idea to stay as active as you can during pregnancy, but make sure not to push yourself and make sure you feel comfortable at all times.