Here’s something we know – exercise releases endorphins (aka the body’s ‘happy hormones’), and when you’re pregnant you need all the ‘happy hormones’ you can counter some of the hormonal effects of pregnancy. Exercising when you’re pregnant is a great way to keep you mentally fit and in addition, it may also help prevent gestational diabetes, morning sickness, fatigue and can lead to an easier, shorter labour.
However, it isn’t advisable to stick to your normal workout routine during pregnancy, especially if it is a high-intensity workout. Undertaking exercises especially modified for each stage of your pregnancy is the best and safest way to go about it.
While the best way to determine just how much to exercise and what to do during your pregnancy is to consult your doctor and to see how you feel, we’ve made the process slightly easier by listing out some of the best, most viable pregnancy-friendly workout options for each stage of your pregnancy.
Rule of thumb:
- Avoid any exercise that puts pressure on your abdominal region, including using machines with frontal pads that may press against your stomach, such as the seated row.
- After your first trimester, limit the kind of exercises that need to be performed lying on your back, as the weight of your growing belly places additional strain on the blood vessels that transport blood to your heart and head, making you feel light headed.
The First Trimester:
Depending on your level of pre-pregnancy fitness and activity, you should feel fairly comfortable to continue with your normal exercise routine at about 70-80% of your regular intensity.
- Lifting weights is a great option at this time as it helps strengthen your muscles and prepares your body to carry around the additional weight of the baby.
- Use machines like seated chest press, seated leg extension and seated calf raise.
- Cardio machines such as the treadmill, cross-trainer and stationary bikes are a great way to get your body moving.
- Exercises that require raising weight over your head are an absolute no-no as they tend to cause the back to arch, placing additional strain on the lower back.
- Avoid all exercises that need you to apply pressure on your abdomen, such as the leg press, prone leg curl or seated row.
The Second Trimester:
During your second trimester, you may find yourself getting out of breath or tired much faster than you’re normally used to. This is because your body needs to work extra hard to remove not just the carbon dioxide you create, but the additional carbon dioxide created by your growing baby as well. As your belly grows, and your centre of gravity shifts, balance may become a slight challenge.
- Stick to seated exercises moving forward.
- Walking on the treadmill and using the cross-trainer remain good cardio options and you can reduce your resistance and intensity based on how you feel.
- Undertake exercises with full back support as this will help maintain your posture without straining your back.
- It is time to cut back on the weights you lift and focus on more repetitions with lighter weights instead.
The Third Trimester:
Trimester three! As D-Day approaches, your body will naturally ensure you slow down. Walking on the treadmill will replace jogging and you may find your belly getting in the way when you sit on the stationary bike.
- Free weight exercises like dumbbell curls or the seated chest press machine are good options.
- Squats, contrary to popular myth will not induce labour and may, in fact, make it easier when the time comes.
- Standing leg raises are also a good way to strengthen your hips and legs before you go into labour, but since balance may be difficult, make sure you are holding on to something stable.
- Don’t do any exercises that require you to lie on your back.
Basically, ladies, working out while you’re pregnant is most definitely the way to go for most women. It has numerous proven benefits and as we mentioned before, it’s all about those ‘happy hormones’. The best advice you can follow is to consult your doctor, listen to your body and not do anything that may cause you to over exert yourself.