Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy? What prenatal exercise regime is recommended? What are the best frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise? In this article, you will find the guidelines for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period, the benefits of prenatal Pilates and other workouts, and precautions.
Please keep in mind that a prescription of the exact prenatal exercises requires knowledge of the potential risks and evaluation of the physical ability to engage in various activities, particularly, of the pre-pregnancy exercise regime. For each pregnant lady, it is highly recommended to conduct a detailed clinical assessment before starting any exercise routine and to be regularly monitored to adjust the exercise program when needed. The suggestions given in this post are for general information only.
1. Is It Safe to Exercise During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is one of the unique experience in a woman’s life. Obviously, during pregnancy and after delivery, a woman’s body is subject to numerous anatomical and physiological changes. Now the common conception of prenatal exercising states that, in most cases, pregnant women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to continue and engage in moderate-intensity physical activities. Even competitive athletes with uncomplicated pregnancies may remain active during pregnancy with necessary changes to exercise program.
As regular exercise is promoted as being a great natural form of preventive medicine and its overall health benefits, a balanced combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises is good for women during pregnancy. Though there are absolute and relative contraindications to vigorous aerobic activities during pregnancy, in most cases, healthy exercising habits adopted during pregnancy could positively affect a woman’s health for the rest of her life.
As was already mentioned above, the overall medical risks should be reviewed before a pregnant woman is prescribed any exercise program. If there are no contraindications, regular moderate-intensity physical activity, similar to that which the woman engaged in before pregnancy, is safe and recommended. However, considering that every woman and her pregnancy is unique, the appropriateness of prenatal workout should be determined individually in every separate case.
2. Benefits of Prenatal Exercises
The usual range of exercising’s advantages is completed with numerous benefits related to the pregnancy and delivery. Regular exercising decreases the risk of prenatal depression and anxiety due to enhanced breathing techniques; improves mood, self-esteem, and energy level because women who continue exercising during pregnancy are more satisfied with their body image compared to women who do not exercise during that period; and improves sleep patterns.
Moderate physical activity and such workouts as prenatal Pilates and yoga reduce the discomforts of pregnancy, such as lower back pain, leg cramps and swelling, exhaustion, bloating, and improve posture and muscle tone.
Researches show that prenatal workouts, usually, help to have an easier, shorter labor and recover from delivery and return to a healthy weight faster. What’s not to like?
3. Recommended Type, Intensity, Frequency, and Duration of Prenatal Workout
The best prenatal exercising regime has aerobic and resistive exercise components. Because of anatomical changes, in particular, weight gain, pregnant women experience the changes in posture and balance and become predisposed to the risk of falling. That’s why it is recommended to avoid the workouts that challenge your balance.
Aerobic exercises can vary: brisk walking, swimming, jogging, and running – whatever your choice is, aim to achieve an accumulation of not less than 30 minutes of physical activity on 5-7 days a week.
In addition to aerobic activities, look for classes to improve flexibility and enhance correct breathing technique. Perhaps, it is wise to limit lifting heavy weights or any too exhausting exercises. Please keep in mind that because of the increased relaxation of ligaments during pregnancy, stretching exercises should be performed carefully and without bouncing.
While exercising, it is important to stay hydrated, listen to your feelings and not to overheat your body. A balanced diet is highly recommended too.
And the last note is about the intensity of training. While prenatal physical activity should be prescribed individually, the headline is: pregnancy is certainly NOT a time for greatly improving physical fitness. If you have been sedentary before pregnancy, please progress to the recommended above 30 minutes activity gradually. If you have attained a high level of fitness before pregnancy, please exercise with caution during pregnancy.
4. Precautions and Warning Signs of Exercising During Pregnancy
While exercising, please be responsible for your health. If you’re in any pain or discomfort at any time during the workout or experience dizziness, headache or chest pain- these are the warning signs to stop whatever you are doing and let your doctor know before returning to your classes.
Many common diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and others, are contraindications (absolute or relative) to aerobic exercise during pregnancy. Please remember to consult with a health specialist before starting your fitness journey.
Of course, a good prenatal instructor will modify your exercise program, and still, be cautious about the avoiding positions that involve lying on your tummy or back, or standing on one leg, in mid-pregnancy and beyond, and don’t stretch any joint to its full range, especially in an unsupported position.
5. Benefits of Prenatal Pilates: How, Exactly, Pilates Compliments Your Pregnancy
Pilates exercises may be very helpful during the pre and postnatal period. Although if you haven’t practiced Pilates before pregnancy, it is not the time to start looking for your core muscles: just wait till you have given birth. If you have practiced Pilates earlier, mention the following: pregnancy is such a joyful time, why not spoil yourself with a private instructor at least this time?
The main benefit of Pilates is that it targets the exact muscles and functions that can be a problem during pregnancy and after birth, in a safe way. Prenatal Pilates program contains abdominal exercises that help to obtain sufficient abdominal support and strength for postural control and child delivery, rather than those exercises that emphasize tight, toned muscles.
Pilates strengthens your abdominals, back, and pelvic floor muscles without straining other joints; so, it’s an excellent exercise to do when you’re pregnant. When abdominal support and strength is not adequate during pregnancy, it may alter the baby’s position, lower back and pelvic support, postural control, and the assistance of the abdominals during labor. Traditional abdominal exercises (supine trunk flexion) should be avoided during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters (in order not to press the fetus up and against the already stressed abdominal wall).
Together with breathing and relaxation, specific Pilates exercises, which vary from trimester to trimester, aim to help your body adapt to the changes it is going through, reduce and eliminate back and pelvic pain and improve your balance.
To sum up, prenatal Pilates exercises help to maintain ideal postural alignment, prevent lower back pain during and after pregnancy, assist in the labor during the “pushing” process, and see you in relaxed and in a good mood.
6. How to Find Prenatal Class (and a Personal Instructor)
Choosing a prenatal class and/or personal trainer, check that your Pilates instructor is experienced and trained in teaching pregnant women or at least has common sense, and try to choose a class that’s for pregnant women. The one-on-one class is highly recommended, of course, but if you cannot afford that, please tell the trainer to a group about your pregnancy before the glass, asking for modifications of exercises. Let her/him also know how many weeks you are. Anyway, use your own judgment during class: listen to your body and choose the pace and intensity of exercises you are comfortable with.
7. The Basics of Postpartum Exercising
After delivery, take it slowly: no need to dive into high-intensity training next day after childbirth.
Many of the physiological and morphological changes of pregnancy stay for four to six weeks after delivery. Therefore, exercise routines are recommended to be resumed only gradually, and, of course, should be individualized. The headline is to resume moderate-intensity physical activity as soon as physically and medically safe. Postnatal Pilates program focuses on abdominal exercises that promote the re-strengthening and re-connecting the abdominal muscles and connective tissues, and are an effective yet gentle way to get back to the pre-pregnancy body.