There’s no need to cancel your gym membership just because you’re expecting. With a little care and good advice, you can keep youself and the little one healthy. The increasing number of women who exercise throughout pregnancy throws doubt on the traditional belief that pregnant women should rest and wrap themselves in cotton wool.  Your decision to take part in fitness activities should first be cleared by your gynaecologist before attempting exercise of any sort.  Then, you should consult with an exercise professional to help guide you on your journey through the coming months.

The child-bearing year is divided into four three-month periods. These include the three pregnancy trimesters and the three-month postnatal period.  So prior to embarking on an exercise program, women should become aware of the following changing physiological and psychological needs during the year. The main physiological change that occurs is that the volume of blood flowing through the body is increased by up to 30-50pc. Because of this, extra blood vessels are formed to supply the foetus with the fuel and energy for normal growth and development. The body’s heart rate at rest, RHR, will also increase as the volume of blood increases by approximately 40pc.

As the heart must pump this extra volume of blood around the body, this means there’s a bigger effort required to sustain increased cardiac output. Another change is that the body’s temperature, both at rest and during exercise, increases. There is a reduction in the thoracic volume in your rib cage because the developing foetus is pressing upwards against the diaphragm, reducing the lung capacity.  Hormonally, the body increases its production of relaxin, oestrogen and progesterone, which relaxes the ligaments, joints, joint capsules and soft tissue, enlarges the breasts but more importantly alters the centre of gravity which can put extra stress on the lower back.  Armed with this new knowledge, you can continue to stay with your exercise routine. You will just need to modify the intensity and exercises you do from time to time.

Another aspect to consider is the fuel you need during your pregnancy.  Regular meals containing protein, fats, vegetables and fruits containing fibre should provide the basis of your food intake, not forgetting a constant flow of water.  The excuse of eating for two should not be adhered to.  So why should you exercise during your pregnancy? Here is a list of benefits and tips.

    • Exercise helps maintain self-esteem. It is estimated that 50pc of pregnancies are unplanned.
    • You can maintain muscular strength, aerobic fitness and keep your energy levels high.
    • If you participate in aerobic classes, avoid using complex choreography or sudden directional changes. Your heart rate should not exceed 140bpm, so the use of a heart rate monitor is advised.
    • Strengthening of the backs of the legs and the upper back will help maintain a good posture which will help reduce backache.
    • You’ll see improvements in circulation if you exercise.
    • Exercise helps to avoid excessive or unnecessary weight gain.
    • Exercise may help to relieve some of the emotional stress of pregnancy.
    • It will speed up the recovery after pregnancy.

Tip of the week

Avoid all forms of loading the spine, barbell squats or barbell lunges whilst pregnant. The shape of the spine will continue to change to cater for the developing foetus. Perform all lower body exercises before upper body exercises, with adequate rest periods in between.

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