Physical exercise and pregnancy

Pregnant women who engage in regular physical exercise know that it’s good for them and their baby. Regular exercise eases the discomforts of pregnancy and helps with sleep. It gives women more energy and it helps stabilize mood swings that can occur during or after pregnancy. It keeps lungs and heart healthy and improves overall circulation. Regular exercises strengthen back and leg muscles and give women the strength and endurance needed for childbirth.

At minimum, women can exercise 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Before starting a programme, check with your doctor or midwife to make sure that your activities don’t put you or your baby at risk. If you have been working out before your pregnancy, you might have to modify some exercises. If you never did, you will need to start slowly. Many pregnant women can exercise, but for some, it is unsafe.

Always exercise within safe limits. Stop your activity if you feel dizzy or nauseated, have sudden or severe abdominal pain or have fluid or blood coming out of your vagina. During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called “relaxin” which relaxes all your body joints and ligaments for childbirth. This change puts you at risk for injuries, sprains and falls. Also, after your first trimester, when your tummy is bigger, avoid positions that keep you flat on your back. This puts pressure on a major vein and can decrease blood flow to your uterus and brain.

Safe and enjoyable exercises include walking, swimming and stationary cycling. Some prenatal groups offer low impact aerobics, weight training, yoga, Pilates, stretching and relaxation classes. Find out what is available in your community and choose a programme taught by a certified prenatal instructor.

Eight safety tips to keep in mind when exercising

1. Eat a healthy and balanced diet.

2. Wear proper fitted sports shoes with ankle and foot support.

3. Avoid unstable activities that can throw off your balance.

4. Start and end your exercises with stretching.

5. Take breaks between workouts. Avoid exhaustion or shortness of breath.

6. Always have a water bottle; drink plenty of fluids.

7. Avoid hot rooms, saunas or exercising in extreme hot weather.

8. After the first trimester, avoid exercises that keep you flat on your back.

Photo courtesy of A Healthier Michigan
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Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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