10 Pregnancy Exercise Tips
I'll be honest - In my first pregnancy, I did very little ''extra exercise''. And I say it like this because I believed it had to look like traditional exercise - gym, smashing it out or playing competitive sports. Which I know now to be untrue.
Plus I had serious SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction) from about 15 weeks - so even walking bought on pain. But as my pregnancy progressed, so did my curiosity about appropriate exercise during pregnancy. Which led me to where I am now - A Pregnancy and postnatal exercise coach!
I get it. It can be confusing what to do. It can be daunting and actually sometimes, simply moving to put on our shoes whilst pregnant is a workout! Here are some general guidelines that may help you if you are wanting to know how hard to go and how to support yourself during exercise.
General guidelines and tips
It is recommended that pregnant folk get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity movement per week. How we can measure intensity is with perceived exertion scale, Max HR or with the talk test. I recommend the perceived exertion and talk test rather than Max HR. This monitors how hard you are breathing, and therefore working. If you can sing out a six60 number easily (level 4-5), the activity is considered light. If you can carry on a conversation but not sing, you’re working at a reasonable level (6). If you’re gasping for breath, you’re probably working too hard – take a rest and dial it back.
See the table below for reference.
This also depends on your level of fitness and activity prior to pregnancy too – so everybody is different. But just know that you should not let yourself become breathless or exhausted! You may find as you progress through your pregnancy, your maximum intensity level is reached sooner – just putting on shoes can leave us breathless! Now is not the time to dramatically increase your exercise levels or go for PB in the gym but is a good opportunity to adopt healthy lifestyle.
Hydration and fuel is key. Keeping well hydrated with water before, during and after exercise and eating something light before and after exercise. Eat all the food groups, no restrictions or dieting!
Adapt warm up & warm downs to be gradual and longer. Be aware of stretching too deep – the hormone relaxin can have us pushing past our limit of flexibility at times, which can place more pressure on joints and ligaments - gentle and easy does it!
Be mindful of that breathe connection, especially with strength training. Adopt the idea of the 3 E’s = Exhale on the Effort of the Exercise. Or blow (exhale) before you go. Avoid breathe holding as this places pressure downwards on your pelvic floors.
If you need extra support in your pelvic floors with the challenging part of the exercise, EG: getting up out of a squat, you can try a gentle squeeze and lift from your anus to your urethra (a kegel) as you lift out of the squat. Try to coordinate with this your exhale. On the inhale, relax your pelvic floor.
Adjusting your body alignment and positioning with exercises may help alleviate any lower back and pelvic pain. If it is persistent, seek professional support form LMC or doctor.
From 16wks, avoid laying on your back for long periods to do exercises – we’ll adjust positions to side, all fours, seated or standing.
Overheating can be concerning whilst pregnant, for mum and bub. Wear loose & light clothing. Workout in a well ventilated area and exercise at cooler times of the day eg: morning or later evening. Keep well hydrated throughout, taking breaks often. It is very important not to overheat!
We want to lessen impact and pressure through the core and pelvic floor – whilst still maintaining strength and movement. This can be done by reducing front loading exercises (think planks, prone push ups), situps, lots of jumping. Of course, some movement like this are fine in a controlled manner! We want EMPOWERED Mamas, not mamas who feel sacred to even move!
Due to lack of balance, relaxin and potential pubic pain (symphysis pubis dysfunction), reduce split leg work (if you are having pain) as you progress through your pregnancy EG: Walking lunges, switch to static lunge pulse or glute bridges
The hormone relaxin is released in your body when you fall pregnant and is responsible for helping your body to relax & widen to make way for your growing baby. This means your joints, ligaments & connective tissues (pelvic floor, core, knees, hips, wrists, ankles etc) are at greater risk of injury.
At any stage of your pregnancy, if anything doesn’t feel right, if you’re in pain, STOP! Communicate with your trainer, your doctor and LMC. I highly recommend booking in with a Women’s Health or Pelvic Floor physio to help your pregnancy be as comfortable as possible.
Any questions at any stage please don’t hesitate to ask.