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Research has shown that conducting a regular physical exercise routine during pregnancy can provide many health benefits to both foetus and carrying mother. Before beginning, or continuing with any exercise routine during this time, it is very important to consult a healthcare professional, as to avoid any complications or risks that may put the baby’s life in danger. Modifications should be made to any existing program, as it may not be suitable to continue with whilst pregnant.

Why Exercise During Pregnancy?

Conducting a light, physical exercise routine during pregnancy does not only provide mum and baby with many health benefits, but it may also help to provide more emotional stability for the carrying mother. Some specific benefits of physical exercise during pregnancy include:

  • Stronger back muscles, which in turn provides greater support against the pulling force at the front of the body due to the baby’s weight.
  • Improved posture, prevention of shoulders rolling forward and becoming hunched or arched through the spine.
  • Weight control, due to the usually excessive amounts of food consumed during pregnancy, weight gain is quite common. Physical exercise can assist against weight gain.
  • Stress relief, balance of hormone secretion, and the stress generally associated with pregnancy.
  • Improved sleep, management and relief of insomnia.
  • Preparation for demands of labour, including decreased time during labour.

Bodily Changes During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the body goes through many physical and emotional changes. In order to maintain health and well being, these changes must be understood and accepted. It is important that during exercise, these changes are taken into account as to avoid anything that may be detrimental to mum or baby.

Physical & Emotional Changes During Pregnancy?

  • Hormones, such as relaxin, can loosen ligaments which can increase the risk of injury to joints.
  • Centre of gravity shifts forward due to increased body weight and alteration to body shape/weight distribution. This sometimes results in balance alteration and coordination.
  • Increase in Resting Heart Rate (RHR), so it is not recommended that physical exercise be measured by target heart rate.
  • Decrease in blood pressure, usually experienced during the second trimester, so as to avoid dizzy spells, rapid shifts or alterations in body position are not recommended. Example, lying down to standing and vice versa.

Exercising When Pregnant

If cleared for exercise by a healthcare professional, it is recommended that as a general guide engage in at least 30 minutes of light exercise intensity. By the third trimester it is important that no more than 2 to 3 sessions per week is exceeded. Exercise suggestions include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling, stationary bike or outdoors.
  • Aqua aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Stretching
  • Dancing
  • Pilates
  • Pregnancy classes

Exercises to Avoid When Pregnant

It is important to avoid all contact activities during pregnancy, as well as any activity that may include the risk of falling. Exercises that involve lying flat on the back should be avoided after the fourth month of pregnancy, as the weight of the baby at this stage can slow the return of blood flow to the heart. Avoid elevation in body temperature and reduce physical activity substantially on hot or humid days. If par-taking in resistance training, avoid heavy weights and low repetitions, instead use light weights and moderate to high repetitions with 2 or 3 sets maximum.

Core Strengthening & Stabilisation

It is very important to avoid abdominal exercises during pregnancy as these can be very dangerous for both mum and baby. In replacement of traditional crunches and other abdominal exercises, stability exercises such as drawing the belly button towards the spine are very effective in core strengthening and stabilisation. Breathing should be relaxed whilst doing this, NEVER hold the breath as with any exercise. Hold this position for 10 seconds; this can be done seated or standing. Release momentarily and repeat for 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions. This can be done daily or as part of an existing exercise routine.

Training When Pregnant

Exercise during pregnancy is generally encouraged and accepted, however it is not for everyone. If the following symptoms are ever experienced during or after exercise whilst pregnant, it is important to stop immediately and seek professional advice from a healthcare professional.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness or faint feeling
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling of the face, hands or feet
  • Calf pain, or swelling
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Contractions
  • Deep back or pubic pain
  • Cramping in the lower abdomen
  • Difficulty walking
  • Unusual shift in baby’s movements
  • Amniotic fluid leakage

Some conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure increase the risk of premature labour and pre-eclampsia (hypertension).

http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/pregnancy_and_exercise Referenced 06/11

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