You’re pregnant? Congratulations! No doubt your mind is abuzz with preparing for the journey ahead. Your body is changing and developing into a nurturing space for your baby. You may be wondering what kinds of exercise are safe for both you and baby. In this post you’ll find our three most recommended ways to stay active and healthy during pregnancy.
Firstly, how much exercise during pregnancy is a healthy dose?
30 minutes a day of gentle to moderate exercise is more than enough. At times during your pregnancy, exercise may well be in the ‘definitely not happening’ basket. And that is absolutely ok! The morning sickness of trimester one and the added weight and fatigue in the 3rd trimester can mean rest is best. It is important to listen to your body. If you’re extremely tired give yourself permission to put your feet up. You are doing important work growing a little human after all! But if you’re up to it – movement is often the best medicine, both mentally and physically.
At the very least, appropriate exercise during pregnancy can aid to help prevent back pain and excess weight gain, pump fresh oxygen around your body for both you and baby, elevate your mood and reward you better sleep. Not to mention the value of keeping your body fit to manage the physical demands of giving birth. If you’d like to hear more about the benefits of movement during pregnancy here is a lovely interview from yoga teacher and midwife Erin Mieszkowski: Keep Moving During Pregnancy for an Easier Birth.
If you already exercise regularly, you may well be able to continue for the majority of your pregnancy. You’ll want to tone down the intensity and make a few adjustments as your body requires. There are also some types of physical activity that really should be avoided during this time, so if you haven’t yet informed yourself check out this WebMD article. If you are starting something new to you, start small. Pregnancy isn’t the time to ‘get in shape’ or start running marathons. Rather, it is a time to nourish and cherish your changing body.
Our Three Favourite Forms of Pregnancy Exercise
Apart from feeling light and graceful, there are many benefits of aqua-natal exercise to enjoy. Especially if you love being in the water, aqua-natal exercise is a real winner. The buoyancy of the water offers both resistance and support, toning and relaxation depending on how you use it.
Exercising with no jarring or strain protects your joints, muscles and ligaments. This also reduces the possibility of injury to mother and baby. While the water hugs your body, it creates a gentle pressure, a little like an all over body stocking that keeps body fluids moving. This aids to prevent lower limb swelling, which is really uncomfortable and can occur in the later stages of pregnancy with other forms of exercise, or lack thereof.
After some supportive exercise within the water you can use a floatation device to reap the benefits of relaxation. You’ll feel energised, calm and balanced as a result. Getting out of the pool is quite an experience! Step by step as you ascend you remember what it is like to be carrying a baby. You certainly will appreciate being weightless for an hour or so each week.
Keep safe by finding an aqua-natal class or an aqua aerobic instructor who understands pregnancy. Remember to drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate and watch out for those slippery steps around the pool.
The beauty of walking to keep fit during pregnancy is that it allows you to develop postural strength while exercising within your own capability. Brisk walking without overdoing it is great for your heart and gets oxygen flowing around your body. A good barometer of pace is that you can talk while you walk – just the reason to have an exercise date with a friend.
As long as you take care of your joints, you can’t really go wrong with walking and the positives can be multiplied if you’re able to walk in a park, bush or along the beach. But provided the air is fresh, being outside anywhere is a plus.
If you are experiencing pelvic joint pain try to avoid walking on uneven ground and wear a Smileybelt pregnancy support. You’ll be surprised how much more walking you are able to do comfortably and safely.
Pregnancy is a shared experience for both mother and baby. Prenatal yoga is a fabulous way to nourish your own body and mind during this precious time, as well as create optimum space and good vibes inside for your little one. And that is just the beginning. There are many studies emerging that highlight the positive effects of practising yoga for pain reduction during labour, less intervention to the natural birthing process and healthier weight babies. Links to a couple of these studies here:
Prenatal yoga can equip women with a toolkit to call on during the intensity of labour. In the climax of a prenatal yoga class you’ll often be holding strenuous poses for a bit over a minute, which is the average length of a contraction. Practising to breathe through these poses cultivating a sense of surrender is certainly invaluable training. Often times when things get tough we fight, which can mean we get tense and stressed. Not so ideal for childbirth. Prenatal yoga can give you another path. A path of harnessing the power of your breath to relax into this most amazing and natural phenomenon of giving birth. Letting your body do what it instinctively knows how to do.
In general, there are three golden rules to adhere to, especially relevant to prenatal yoga but also applicable in many other forms of exercise, these are:
- Do not over exert yourself – you already have a lot going on inside which can be tiring and it’s important to not overheat.
- Do not overstretch – your body is super-charged with hormones. The relaxin hormone encourages laxity in the ligaments making it easy to overstretch. Moving to a 75% capacity is a good rule of thumb to avoid injury. A little goes a long way.
- No compression of your belly – think of creating space for baby – she will thank you for it!
There are poses and breathing practices that are not recommended in pregnancy so it is important to attend a class specifically for pregnancy, or with a teacher that is trained in prenatal yoga. Here is a worldwide directory of bliss baby trained yoga teachers, hopefully one near you. http://www.blissbabyyoga.com/directory/
With the juggle of mum life it can sometimes be really difficult to make it to a class. If you are keen to benefit from prenatal yoga in the comfort and ease of your own home good old Youtube will serve up plenty of videos. But to be honest, you really need to know that your guide is well qualified and truly understands pregnancy. Bettina Rae specialises in yoga for all stages of motherhood. From fertility to yoga with kids, she has you covered in her online yoga circle and we definitely recommend you check her out. She offers a 30-day free trial and after that it’s AU$14 per month – you can’t really lose! She is a mother herself and her love for her work shines through in her classes. The video below gives you an intro.
So make time to stay active and enjoy this special time!