Pregnancy doesn’t mean you have to avoid any kind of exercise for nine months, in fact, a good level of activity can improve you and your baby’s health.
Unless you have specific medical advice telling you not to do any, staying in your training routine well into your pregnancy will help your body prepare for the drastic shifts that occur to accommodate your baby.
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
There are so many benefits of staying active during pregnancy, including:
- Boost mood and energy levels
- Help you sleep better
- Great for wellbeing
- Reduce aches and swelling
- Help you stay in better shape during and after pregnancy
- Better eating habits
- Promote muscle strength and endurance
Enjoy daily exercise
Staying active through your pregnancy is a must, so find an exercise or routine that you enjoy and it won’t feel like such a chore. It goes without saying that the workout intensity and duration won’t be as hard or long as your usual, and as you progress through your pregnancy, these things are likely to decrease.
Warm up correctly
It’s important to warm up and cool down properly before and after each session. Try to avoid overheating or doing movements that make you out of breath.
Tips for training when pregnant
The amount you train and type of exercise you do will vary from person to person, but you can follow these general guidelines for training in different trimesters:
- First trimester can be hard for many due to fatigue, sickness and nausea etc, so try up to 30 minutes, 2-3 times per week.
- Second trimester you usually have more energy, feel stronger and can train to a better intensity, so aim for up to 45 minutes, 3-4 times per week.
- Third trimester, your bump will be getting heavy and you may feel more fatigued, so try up to 30 minutes, 2-3 times per week.
Other top tips to keep in mind is to increase your rest periods during pregnancy, plus be mindful of body heat and breathing while you train. During the end of your pregnancy, you may also want to add more walking or swimming. From week 34 onwards, you will likely not feel like training, so tapering off or stopping your regime is completely fine.
Exercise or sports to avoid
There’s several exercises and activity that we strongly advise you steer clear of during your pregnancy, including:
- Abdominal exercises
- Lying Leg curl
- Chin ups
- Pull downs
- Contact sports
- Horse riding
- Any movement lying on your front or flat on your back
Try these exercises instead
There’s loads of great exercises that suit pregnancy and can be performed safely, including:
- Leg press
- Leg extension
- Hip thrust
- Seated rows
- Chest/shoulder press
- Lateral raises
When carrying out any exercise, focus on engaging the core, keep the tummy tight and not pushed out.
Aim to carry out every movement using the correct form. Do not push or strain and remember the body will start to become more flexible.
Be mindful of any exercise that creates intra-abdominal pressure or pushes the stomach out.
It’s useful to know that injury can be more common during pregnancy, due to the changes the body is going through and production of the hormone relaxin that causes the ligaments and tendons to soften and stretch.
Pelvic floor exercises
During pregnancy and childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles come under great strain. Strengthening these muscles will help the body cope with the growing weight of a baby, and what’s best of all, they can be done anywhere, any time. All pregnant women should do these exercises as they’ll also reduce or help avoid stress incontinence after giving birth.
- Squeeze and draw in the muscles around your back and front passages, as if you are trying to stop a wee and avoid passing wind (yes, at the same time!).
- Hold the squeeze as you count to 10, and then relax for 10 seconds.
- Repeat as many times as you can, for around 5-10 minutes per day.
- While doing pelvic floor exercises, stay relaxed and breathe normally.
- Do not tighten your buttocks and keep your thighs relaxed, only your pelvic floor should be moving.
Diastasis recti and abdominal separation
Commonly seen among pregnant women, diastasis recti (DR) is the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis or ‘six pack’ muscles. This means the stomach sticks out or bulges as the space between the left and right belly muscles has widened.
Tips for training with DR
- Be extra careful while training, focus on maintaining a strong core and keep the stomach tight and sucked in (even with a baby bump).
- For any exercise performed on a bench, for example incline dumbbell press, make sure you ‘log roll’ on and off before picking the weights up, so you avoid leaning back or getting up using the abdominal muscles.
Eating with your bump
While pregnant, it’s ok to be more lenient with your diet due to cravings or sickness of certain foods. Don’t worry if you can’t stick to your nutrition plan perfectly, just focus on getting a variety of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats), plus plenty of vitamins and minerals.
For the first and second trimester, there’s no need to increase your calorie intake. For the third trimester, increase your calories around 10% (or by 200 calories), ensuring you are making healthy choices the majority of the time (but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying treats too).
Should you supplement while pregnant?
Speak to a specialist before taking any supplements during your pregnancy. Some supplements we may advise that could help you include:
- Fish oil with high DHA, 500mg DHA per day
- Folic acid, 500-600mg per day
- Vitamin D, 5000iu per day
- Probiotic, 1 capsule per day
- Choline 450mg per day