Your guide to pre and postnatal exercise from Momentum Bootcamps
By Katherine Macfarlane
Trainer and Physiotherapist, Momentum Bootcamps
At no point in a woman’s life is general fitness more crucial than during pregnancy and childbirth. An informed and realistic fitness program can benefit a pregnant woman in many ways:
- Women can improve muscular strength, which is especially good preparation for carrying a baby – and by developing your upper body strength and abdominal muscles, you can improve your posture, working to overcome the forward pull of the growing baby’s weight.
- Common disorders often associated with pregnancy, such as lower back pain and leg cramps, can be eased and exercise can help to prevent varicose veins by improving your circulation.
- You will feel better about yourself, be able to control unnecessary weight gain and attain ease of movement and balance. Being fit will help you feel well and relaxed to cope with the demands of labour
According to Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (UK), it is not only safe but also beneficial to continue physical activity during pregnancy. By paying attention to some simple guidelines coupled with good medical care, a woman can enjoy her pregnancy exercise program and anticipate similar levels of fitness after childbirth.
Becoming active and exercising at least 30 minutes on most, if not all days of the week can benefit your health during pregnancy in the following ways:
- Helps reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling
- May help prevent or treat gestational diabetes
- Increases your energy
- Improves your mood
- Improves your posture
- Promotes muscle, strength and endurance
- Helps you sleep better
After the first trimester of pregnancy, avoid doing exercises lying flat on your back
If it has been some time since you exercised, start slowly. Begin with as little as five minutes per day and add 5 minutes each week, until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day. You may find it useful to consult a physiotherapist who is experienced at helping women exercise in pregnancy, for their advice on getting you started.
- Always warm up and cool down
- Avoid brisk exercise in hot, humid weather or when you have a fever (it may be more comfortable to exercise in air conditioning)
- Wear comfortable clothing that will help you remain cool
- Wear a bra that fits well and gives lots of support (you may require regular bra fitting measurements as your breasts become larger during your pregnancy)
- Drink plenty of water to help keep you from overheating and dehydrating
- Make sure you consume the daily extra calories you need during pregnancy
- Empty your bladder prior to exercising, as the combination of increased fluid intake and the pressure of the enlarged uterus on the bladder can lead to urinary incontinence
- Don’t forget your pelvic floor exercises
Q: What are the physical benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
A: The common complaints of pregnancy such as fatigue, lower extremity swelling and circulatory problems are reduced in women who exercise. Remaining fit and active during pregnancy will help a woman to maintain her cardiovascular fitness and strength, which will benefit her during labour. In addition, initiation of pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy and in the immediate postpartum period may reduce the risk of future urinary incontinence.
Exercise can prevent excessive maternal weight gain, can improve blood sugar control in women with gestational diabetes and may even play a role for primary prevention of developing gestational diabetes.
Q: What are the emotional/ mental benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
A: We shouldn’t underestimate the psychological benefits of getting active, and taking control of your health and your pregnancy. Psychologically, active women experience less insomnia, stress anxiety and depression.
Q: How can I get back into exercising after the baby is born?
A: Benefits of postpartum exercise include:
- Improved cardiovascular fitness
- Facilitated weight loss,
- Raised positive mood
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduce depression
- More energy
Most women can start exercise as soon as they feel able to. However, for more complicated births or caesarean section deliveries there are some restrictions. It is best to discuss these restrictions with your doctor and physiotherapist
Walking is a good way to get back into exercising. Brisk walks several times a week will prepare you for more strenuous exercise when you feel up to it. Walking has the added advantage of getting both you and the baby out of the house for exercise. As you feel stronger, consider more vigorous exercise.
At Momentum Bootcamps, we have a team of qualified trainers who are able to support and provide modifications for pre and postnatal clients who would like to continue training throughout their pregnancy and after.