There is no doubt that exercising during pregnancy brings with it a string of benefits, that is if complications are not an issue. Exercising during pregnancy can help you feel better, look better, prepare your body for childbirth and make it easier for you to regain your pre-pregnancy figure. However, exercising during pregnancy isn’t without its own set of concerns. Below are some of the frequently asked questions that may help you understand more about your body, your situation and your health before you embark on an exercise program.
1. When is exercising not a good idea for pregnant women?
If a pregnancy is diagnosed as a high- risk one, exercise would normally be discouraged by your doctor. You would probably be alerted by your doctor of activities to avoid as soon as a risk condition is detected in your pregnancy. Women who have a high- risk pregnancy are cautioned against exercising. Otherwise, they should get adequate advice from their doctors and fully comprehend their situations and the risk factors before engaging in an exercise routine. If you answer yes to any of the below, do seek your doctor’s advice on exercising during pregnancy.
- Do you have a history of miscarriages?
- Do you have medical problems such as diabetes, respiratory problems, high BP or hypertension-relatedproblems?
- Do you have a history of premature labour?
- Are you carrying twins/triplets or more?
- Are you underweight?
- Are you extremely overweight?
- Have you had injury relating to the back or joints, etc?
2. What are the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ for exercising during pregnancy?
The most important ‘do’ is none other than keeping hydrated at all times, regardless of the form of exercise you do. Keeping well-hydrated will prevent you from getting over-heated. An over-heated body can have adverse effects on your baby. Stop exercising as soon as you feel uncomfortably warm. Other than that, note the following:
- Don’t partake of competitive sports as form of exercise
- Don’t continue exercising upon noticing any kind or unusual symptoms.
- Do avoid exercises where balancing acts/poses are included
- Do exercise regularly instead of as and when you feel like it
- Do avoid exercises which require you to lie down on your back, especially during your last trimester
- Don’t allow your heart rate to read beyond 140 beats per minute
3. Is the treadmill safe to use while pregnant?
Actually, the treadmill would be an excellent machine to get started on especially if you are quite new to the exercising scene. Walking is a form of cardiovascular exercise which is relatively low-impact and hence, if done correctly and with moderation on a treadmill, can be beneficial to your pregnancy health. Select the gentle stroll to begin with and slowly proceed to a semi power walk. Important tips:
- Start with the lowest level and work up slowly but stay at a comfortable pace and do not overdo it
- Do not step onto the machine while it is in motion
- Do not lean forward while on the treadmill and do not grip the handles too tightly
- Keep a good ‘standing tall’ posture
- Wear proper footwear. Ask your instructor for advice on suitable training shoes
- Breathe comfortably and discontinue at once if you feel uncomfortable, out of breath or are unable to talk
- Stay hydrated throughout your workout
- Do not forget to warm-up before exercise and cool-off after exercise
4. I am not someone who exercises in general. Is it alright for me to begin while I’m pregnant?
If you rarely exercised before and want to do so during your pregnancy, you should first consult with your doctor. If an ‘Ok’ has been given do take into consideration all his advice especially in terms of what to avoid during exercise. Firstly, set some realistic goals, in which you can work within healthy boundaries without unnecessary risks. Start with a walking program and throw in regular pelvic floor exercises. You can also aim to do some gentle stretching for 3-5 minutes and gradually build it up to 10 minutes. If swimming is your thing, go for it. The water allows you to tone your muscles without causing you any strain. Do take note that exercising while you are pregnant is not about losing weight or maintaining your weight but about staying healthy for you and your baby. Now is also not the time to try something you have never tried before.
5. How often should I exercise to keep fit and healthy during my pregnancy?
During pregnancy it is not a must to work out everyday; a few times in a week is good enough. The same kind of activity gets monotonous and there will be days when the activity just won’t suit you or you simply lack motivation, hence it makes sense to vary and not stick to a particular routine. For instance, you can swim one day, go for brisk walking on another, practice step aerobics or do some yoga on other days. The important thing is to listen to your body and, even more important than that, to avoid exhaustion. Slow down and skip a workout if you have to, for example when you are down with a flu or a cold or just too tired.
Stamina builds up over time, so it’s just pointless to force your body to go on when it’s telling you it can’t. A moderate workout for 30 minutes is feasible enough. Even if you have always been an avid exerciser, do not take on new challenges but stick to the familiar moves for now.
6. What is the meaning of “post workout fatigue” and will it affect my pregnancy?
As the term implies, post-workout fatigue is related to the level of tiredness you feel after working out. Though feeling fatigued is common during pregnancy, feeling terribly tired the day after you have exercised is a give-away that you have worked out in excess. To put it simply, you may have done more than your body can cope with. You will need re-evaluate the level or the type of activity to prevent the overwhelming exhaustion. For example, go easy on yourself with 15-20 minutes of walking on tired days. Remember that some form of exercise, even light and gentle movements, are better than none and are enough for you to enjoy the feel-good hormones i.e. serotonin.
7. Is the stationary bike a suitable machine to use during pregnancy?
Compared to a moving bike, there is no issue of balance, skill or temperature to consider when using a stationary one, hence it is actually a good machine to use during your pregnancy. The only downside is, mounting a stationary bicycle during the final trimester may prove to be quite a challenge. Do proceed with caution when getting on and off the machine. When mounting, sit sideways and bring one leg over to reach the pedal – avoid lifting the leg too high as this action may affect the
As your belly grows bigger, things may get even more uncomfortable, what with your tummy getting in the way of your knee. Tips that may help:
- Adjust the pedals to a suitable height
- Avoid leaning too far forward
- Check on your posture and your comfort level oftenIf cycling on the machine gets too tedious, it’s a good indication to stop and try some other, more comfortable form of workout.
8. Will exercising during the early stages of pregnancy cause a miscarriage?
While there is no concrete evidence to support this, do take note that many doctors do advise avoiding exercise for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarrying is most common during the implantation stage. Even if you are an avid exerciser, you may still need to fine-tune it to a more gentler workout to make it safer for your pregnancy. If you have hardly exercised before this, you can, with your doctor’s advice, start with a very light program, at the second trimester of your pregnancy. If any spotting or cramps occur, stop your activity and get medical attention at once.
Although the above do not necessarily have to be indicative of a problem, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.