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Why Exercise During Pregnancy?

Published July 17, 2007 in Pre and Post Natal Fitness - 0 Comments

One of the most common questions a lot of women ask once they get pregnant is “is it okay for me to exercise?”. In most cases, the resounding answer is yes!

For most women, one of the biggest stresses of pregnancy is the weight gain it will lead to, so it’s naturally to think about ways to counteract that, but weight control is only one of the ways your body can benefit from keeping active during your pregnancy. As long as there are no pre-existing conditions keeping you from safe and controlled exercise (make sure you discuss this with your doctor), here are some important areas you should focus on – and reasons for you to stay fit.

Core Strength: Over the last few years, core muscles have moved front and centre in the awareness stakes, thanks to Pilates, Fitballs and other disciplines which focus on building a strong centre. For pregnant women, core muscles are even more important. Back ache, postural problems and recovery after birth can all be made far more manageable by keeping your core strong. This can be as simple as doing a small amount of exercises on a Fitball, finding a pre-natal Pilates class, or hiring a personal trainer to guide you through the correct movements. You need to remember after sixteen weeks of pregnancy, it is no longer recommended to lie flat on your back to exercise, so make sure what you’re doing is right for the stage of pregnancy you’re in.

Lifting Technique: Being pregnant means your body is going to get heavier – by the end of the last trimester, average (and healthy) weight gain is 12.5kg (approximately 25 pounds). Your legs, lower back and gluteal muscles will all get more of a workout sitting down, standing up and just moving around on a day to day level. Also bear in mind once your baby arrives, you’ll be doing lots of lifting from awkward angles, so along with a strong core, you’ll need to learn to lift with your legs to protect your back. There are many versions of body weight squats, Fitball squats, and even certain exercise machines you can use and benefit from during this time.

Upper Body Strength; As your body changes, and bustline starts to increase, so does the pressure on your postural muscles. Once your baby arrives, holding, breastfeeding and lifting use a surprising amount of upper body strength, and if you find you’re not up to the task, you can experience a lot of neck and upper back pain. To avoid this, postural work like scapular pinches, seated row, and more challenging work incorporating a Fitball can really help make you more able to cope.

Controlling Weight Gain: probably the most visually important aspect to most women, and a very important one. You don’t have to do anything fancy to keep your weight under control, but if you’re able to go for a daily thirty minute walk, you’ll be doing your body a huge favour. Try to use this time not only for exercise, but to also let your mind relax, and focus on yourself. As you get towards the end of your pregnancy, it can be very easy(and understandably so!) to get stressed out by the idea of upcoming event. As you walk, try to breathe deeply, and enjoy the benefits – you’ll feel much better!

All of these things can help keep you feeling energetic, sleeping more easily, and coping better with your changing body. It’s a great idea to get professional guidance, either in a class situation, or one on one from a personal trainer – even if it’s just for one session – to help guide you in the right direction and make sure your technique is correct and safe.