The importance of exercise during pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy can be very beneficial. Here's how.

18 April 2012
by The Clicks health team

One of the first things we all find ourselves asking when we discover we're pregnant is inevitably, “Can I continue to exercise now that I am pregnant?” The answer? Most definitely!

We encourage you to always confirm this though with your doctor first as each person is different and also, each woman carries differently during pregnancy. However, as a general statement: you will most probably find that your doctor will probably encourage you to exercise throughout your pregnancy.

Here's why you should exercise

There definitely are benefits to exercising during your pregnancy:

  • Your overall wellbeing and self-image is simply improved.
  • Exercise can definitely help with pelvic and back pain.
  • It improves your blood circulation as well as strengthens muscles and is a good tension reliever.
  • By being physically fit, you are often more likely to have an easier pregnancy and labour.

However, follow these exercise guidelines...

There are some guidelines that you should take into consideration now that you are pregnant:

  • Avoid exercises that require you to lift weights overhead, lie on your back for long periods of time (especially once you reach the four month pregnancy mark) or press a lot of weight forward (i.e. leg press machine). The reason being – it decreases the blood flow to you and your baby which in turn lowers your blood pressure and may cause dizziness and or nausea.
  • Cut out the bouncy movements, high impact e.g. squash, tennis, high impact aerobics as your joints and ligaments do become lax during pregnancy. The chances are you won’t feel up to it anyhow (especially from around five months onwards).
  • Regardless of whatever workout you are doing, always ensure that you take in liquids before, during and after so as to keep your body well hydrated.
  • Avoid exercising in extreme heat, on steep inclines or at high altitudes.
  • Make sure you eat before you train (about an hour before) and stay off the high sugar snacks.
  • If you are a runner or generally do a lot of aerobic training, now is the time to slow down the intensity and duration – you won’t be training for any marathons for a few months so no need to push it – you have too much at risk.

Keep in mind that there is plenty of time once your baby has arrived to up the intensity again. As mentioned earlier, exercise is a great stress reliever and has also been known to assist with an easy birth delivery.

Try these exercises

The following exercises can be done in the comforts of your home (remember to check with your doctor first):

Firstly, be sure to warm up.

Arms:

  1. Push-ups (yes, you may do these throughout your pregnancy, but again, do what is comfortable for you. You may want to start with wall push-ups or kneeling).
  2. Tricep dips
  3. Tricep extensions

Legs:

  1. Lunges (again, you can do them from a standing position or on a step for those more advanced).
  2. Step ups: Find a set of stairs and something to lean on e.g. a railing. Place your foot on the first step and slowly pull yourself up to a standing position lifting your knee to hip level.
  3. Leg bends: tand with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart, toes pointed outwards. Slowly bend to a squat position, making sure your knees stay over your ankles at all times. Do a kegel at the bottom (if need be), then squeeze your buttocks, press your knees back and come up to a standing position.

Repeat all exercises between 10 to 20 times. If you feel any discomfort during these exercises stop immediately. And remember to listen to your body.