Can pregnant women exercise?
Traditionally, pregnant women were instructed to reduce exercise and activity levels for the duration of the pregnancy and immediately post-partum.
Recent evidence suggests however that regular physical activity provides many health and social benefits and may also help manage some symptoms of pregnancy. Unless you have complications, it should be possible to enjoy some level of physical activity throughout most of your pregnancy.
Consult with your doctor, physiotherapist or health care professional before starting any new exercise program. While exercise during pregnancy is usually encouraged, under some circumstances exercise can be detrimental to both the expecting mother and the growing foetus.
Type of Exercise
- Swimming – should be safe to continue throughout the duration of the pregnancy, due to the water’s buoyant nature
- Bike riding – may be continued as per normal until the change in posture and pelvic remodelling, combined with an increase in body weight occurs in the 2nd trimester (at this time your balance may become compromised, and a stationary exercise bike may be safer)
- Running – may continue as able, but avoid running large weekly kilometres to prevent injury and low back discomfort. A firm supportive bra should be used, due to the increased weight and volume of the breast, to minimise discomfort and stretching while running. Once into the third trimester, try ‘water running’ to reduce the workload on your body
- Weights / Core Stabilising Exercises – are appropriate at all phases of pregnancy, but care should be taken not to hold your breath, as it may reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood. A weights program is also safe for mother and foetus where heart rates remain within normal limits. Care should be taken to avoid any exercises where you are lying on your back or are doing pure abdominal strength exercises, due to increased risks to the normal development of your fetus
How often can I Exercise?
- If you have been cleared to exercise, it should be safe to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week
- Do no more than three sessions per week of vigorous exercise by the third trimester
- Let your body be your guide. You know you’re at a good intensity when you can talk normally and not become exhausted too quickly. Be guided by your doctor, physiotherapist or health care professional
You must stop exercising immediately if you experience;
- Pain or uterine contractions
- Vaginal bleeding
- Shortness of breath
- Leakage of amniotic fluid
- Pins & needles
- Visual disturbances
Returning to Exercise
- As a general rule, exercising after 6-8 weeks post-partum is safe though can vary depending on the type of delivery (vaginal vs caesarean)
- The ultimate decision should carefully consider fitness goals, fitness testing results, and progression and level of training
- Any decision to return to exercise post-partum should be made in consultation with your obstetrician, coach/trainer and any other health professional involved with your care