April 11, 2018

Keep fit and firm during your pregnancy... and beyond

Exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing while you're growing a little human inside of you. But regular workouts will not only help you feel healthier and stronger throughout your body, they will also help you to better cope with labour and recover much better.


It may take nine months to make a person, but it takes just a few weeks of neglecting your usual exercise routine to lose your tone and shape. Keeping fit during pregnancy isn't just recommended for mums-to-be, it can also help you during labour and recovery. Best of all, your exercise regime post-baby won't be as difficult to begin if you've kept up a regular workout.

Of course, all exercise programmes (whether you're a regular gym-goer or not), should be approved by your doctor. While you may have to do away with reaching any particular peak fitness level, it's recommended you maintain a good fitness level throughout your 40 (or so) weeks.

How often should I work out?
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends pregnant women follow their guidelines of:

i) at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, or;
ii) at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity a week, or; iii) an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.

The ideal workout should aim to get your heart pumping, keep you limber, manage weight gain, and prepare your muscles without causing undue physical stress for you or the baby. Stay well hydrated. Wear comfortable and non-restrictive clothing (such as a correctly fitted bra and appropriate footwear). And where possible, avoid excessive over-heating.

What are the benefits?
One major advantage of exercising during pregnancy is the improvement of your physical and mental wellbeing. Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy also helps in returning to your pre-baby weight more quickly and also reduces the risk of developing gestational diabetes, which is more common in mothers who are overweight.

Risks of exercise during pregnancy
There are currently no known adverse risks to a pregnant woman linked with meeting the recommended guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity per week.

However, as pregnancy progresses, the body goes through significant changes, such as increased laxity (looseness) of joints, changes in centre of gravity and an increased resting heart rate. Therefore, modifications to programs may need to be considered.

A word of advice
When pregnant women participate in activities that require a high degree of balance or rapid changes in direction, they should consult with their doctor first. Your doctor may recommend you see a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist for a program especially for you.

Keep you and your baby safe
While most forms of exercise are safe, there are some exercises that involve positions and movements that may be uncomfortable or harmful to pregnant women. Be guided by your doctor or physiotherapist, but general cautions include:

  • Avoid raising your body temperature too high – for example, don’t soak in hot spas or exercise to the point of heavy sweating. Reduce your level of exercise on hot or humid days.
  • Don't exercise to the point of exhaustion.
  • If weight training, choose light weights and medium to high repetitions – avoid lifting heavy weights altogether.
  • Avoid exercise if you are ill or feverish.
  • If you don’t feel like exercising on a particular day, don’t. It is important to listen to your body to avoid unnecessarily depleting your energy reserves.
  • Don’t increase the intensity of your sporting program while you are pregnant, and always work at less than 75 per cent of your maximum heart rate.
  • In addition, if you develop an illness or a complication of pregnancy, talk with your doctor or midwife before continuing or restarting your exercise program. 

What to avoid

  • After about the fourth month of pregnancy, exercises that involve lying on your back – the weight of the baby can slow the return of blood to the heart. Modify these exercises by lying on your side.
  • In the later stages of pregnancy, activities that involve jumping, frequent changes of direction and excessive stretching (such as gymnastics).
  • If you're not sure whether a particular activity is safe during pregnancy, check with your healthcare professional.

Stop exercising while pregnant if you experience:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Any ‘gush’ of fluid from the vagina
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Decreased foetal movement
  • Dizziness or presyncope (light-headedness, muscular weakness and blurred vision)
  • Shortness of breath before exertion
  • Excessive fatigue
  • A headache
  • Pelvic pain
  • Excessive shortness of breath
  • Painful uterine contractions
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Listen to your body. Be aware of these signs and symptoms, stop physical activity immediately and consult your doctor.


Word of advice
During pregnancy, it is so important to listen to your body and be guided by the signals it is sending you. Start with one set of eight reps for each exercise. If this is too much, that is absolutely fine! If it feels easy, pay close attention to your body as you gradually increase the sets and/or reps – but only if your health professional has given you the ‘okay’ to do so. Remember: now is not the time in your life to push yourself in training – the little life growing inside you is of utmost importance!

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