Pregnancy – Fitness and Exercise For Women – What Should I Know?
Fitness during pregnancy is essential. Gentle exercise during pregnancy can assist you in many ways, in particular getting your body ready for the birth of your baby. There are many benefits to exercising during your pregnancy and this includes:
– Exercise helps to give you energy
– It helps to improve circulation
– Helps to keep your body subtle
– Prevents excess weight gain
– Helps to prevent pregnancy related diseases
In regards to health, exercise helps to improve heart and lung health, which is most important in increasing stamina. Stamina is needed to help cope with the demands that pregnancy places on the body, as well as during the many hours of labor.
Exercise is a major factor that helps women during their recovery after giving birth. Women that have included some form of exercise during their pregnancy, have a better recovery after giving birth, as their bodies are more prepared for the strain and demands that are required.
Most women do not know what they can and can’t do during pregnancy. They want to do some sort of exercise but often ask how safe is it, what can they do and most importantly what they need to avoid.
Women are advised to avoid hot and humid environments while they exercise, drink water before during and after any activities, and one important piece of advice is that they do not do any activity while laying on their back instead complete the exercises on their side. They must also avoid any exercise that will strain their back.
Exercise physiologists recommend that the FITT principle is used when exercise activities are being completed. This FITT principle involves:
Pregnant women should exercise no more than 3 times per week (once they have been too see a health care provider to clear them for any type of exercise program)
The way to ensure that the intensity (ie how hard you are working) of the aerobic activity is at a correct level is to use the ‘Talk Test’. This involves seeing if you can carry on a conversation while you are exercising. If you can, then you are at an appropriate level of intensity. If you have difficulty then reduce the intensity of your activity.
Time of activity
the time that women should be exercising is approximately 15 minutes. Women can then increase the length of their activity by 2 minutes until they reach half an hour of exercises. This length can be maintained up until the end of their pregnancy. 10-15 minute warm up and cool down is recommended before and after any activity is attempted.
Types of activity
The best type of exercise for aerobic benefits is walking, swimming or special water aerobic classes. Exercises that focus on muscle strengthening and conditioning include body sculpting classes or pilates. Avoid activities where balance is an issue or there is a chance of falling over. Listen to what your body is telling you – if it hurts don’t do it!
Most people notice a lot of different changes in their body. By the four month period, women notice that their pelvis’ have ‘loosened’ and that they can not sit in one position for long periods of time; that their posture has changed due to the added weight of carrying a developing baby. These changes and many more can be assisted with gentle exercise that targets and prepares the body for these changes. Stretches (similar to yoga) can be advantageous for reducing pelvic, back and neck pain. Dizzy spells/nausea do afflict pregnant women, however regular exercise can assist in reducing the severity of these episodes in some women.
Women find it harder to perform exercises as they progress through their pregnancy, as they are obviously going to get a larger ‘baby bump’ as the 9 months progress. Exercise classes that are tailored for different stages of pregnancy, in regards to the amount and intensity are often offered by local fitness groups. Looking into these exercise options may be of benefit, both for health and for networking with other soon-to-be mums.
Because your center of gravity shifts, you need to change the types of activities that you do , as well as how you do them. Women can find it hard to exercise during pregnancy – simple things such as taking the dog for a walk around the neighborhood, walking on the beach or in a park can be enough to get started. Adding simple things such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from the entry to the shopping center or mall can add extra exercise to your day without feeling like it!
During pregnancy it is common to feel cautious about the activities that you participate in. So how hard can you push yourself? And how cautious should you be? Knowing what you should keep in mind while you exercise is an important step in looking after both yourself and your baby.
But most importantly, women must always consult a medical practitioner (their own health care provider or midwife) regarding their intended exercise program, whether it be a program that they are just starting or are continuing.