Letshego Zulu
4 minute read
28 Jan 2019
11:53 am

How to stay fit during pregnancy

Letshego Zulu

Your choice of activity will have to be low impact, and you will have to monitor your fatigue and discomfort levels.

Picture: iStock

It’s great to see how times have changed because fitness during pregnancy is fast becoming a topic of discussion among women nowadays.

Exercise during pregnancy used to be taboo but women are now beginning to understand the benefits of keeping physically active during and after pregnancy.

Before we get into specific exercises, let us first address a few benefits of keeping fit and active during pregnancy:

  • Improved cardiovascular fitness.
  • Improved strength to help cope better with the aches and pains that come with a body that is undergoing physical change.
  • Improved blood circulation.
  • Reduced swelling.
  • Reduced chances of developing varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis.
  • Stronger abdominal and lower back muscles.
  • Improved posture.
  • Helps to reduce constipation and bloating.
  • May assist with preventing or treating gestational diabetes.
  • May reduce birth-related complications.

Although there is a long list of benefits, you need to first get the “green light” from your medical practitioner to continue or start exercising during pregnancy.

There are also some women who have risk factors (i.e. contraindications to exercise) and need to be cognisant of the potential risks to their health and that of their baby. If you are a woman with any of the following five conditions you need to be extra cautious and speak to your doctor:

• Incompetent cervix; which is a condition in which the cervix begins to dilate before full-term pregnancy. The risks of this is potential premature birth or the loss of the baby.

• Placenta previa; which is a condition in which the placenta covers the opening of the cervix.

• Restrictive lung disease; which is a condition where lung function is reduced due to restrictions in expansion while breathing.

• Heart disease or pregnancy induced high blood pressure also known as pre-eclampsia.

• Persistent bleeding or spotting.

Exercise during pregnancy is different for women who had been exercising regularly prior to falling pregnant as compared to those wanting to begin exercise once they are pregnant.

If you had kept up regular exercise prior to falling pregnant and you have received the green light from your doctor it’s fairly easy to continue, but be aware of being in tune with your body and any potential discomfort while you exercise. Any discomfort generally means your body might be struggling to cope with the intensity, duration or type of exercise and so you need to scale it down or change the type of exercise.

For example, coming from an ultra marathon background, I managed to run a 21km race within my first trimester, I then had to cut it down to 10km at a time during my 2nd trimester and in the 3rd trimester I was reduced to a slow 5km walk at a time.

I gave up cycling after the first trimester and opted for swimming. For strength, I continued with free weights and machines, but avoided certain exercises such as lifting weights above my head or being on my back as such exercises reduce blood flow to the uterus.

For women who had not engaged in regular physical activity prior to falling pregnant, the fitness journey will be slightly different. This is simply because your body was not used to exercise prior to pregnancy and therefore introducing a new activity to your body while it is essentially “in production mode” has to be done cautiously.

Your choice of activity will have to be low impact and you will have to monitor your fatigue and discomfort levels.

Take the safe route

Most exercises in general are safe to perform during pregnancy as long as they are approached with caution. The safest exercises include:

  • Yoga (excluding hot yoga and bikram yoga)
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Indoor stationary cycling (excluding spinning classes)
  • Circuit training or gym machine exercises
  • Functional training exercises
  • Try to use a personal trainer who specialises in training pregnant women. If you choose to join a group training class (for example aerobics or bootcamp) please inform the trainer prior to the class, even if you are still within the first trimester. Once you are in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, it is best to stick to low impact classes.
  • Exercise during pregnancy can also make your post-pregnancy journey a lot easier.

Letshego is a qualified biokineticist and co-founder of PopUpGym. Follow her on Instagram: @letshego.zulu Twitter: @letshegom Facebook: Letshego Zulu

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