Pregnant & Powerful – benefits of exercising through pregnancy

Damien Hirst - pregnancy blog (500 pix)

Damien Hirst – The Virgin Mother at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Creating a life and growing a human is a mind-blowing miracle! In a study at Duke University the ultimate limit of human endurance has been calculated by scientists, who found that pregnant women are close to the maximum – now that’s powerful!

Three full-on trimesters of major anatomical and physiological changes, over 40 weeks… organs shift and get squished, the uterus can expand up to 20 times it’s normal size, body posture changes, ligaments and joints move… and then throw all the hormonal changes into the mix! Women and wondrous.

Watch this animation showing how a woman’s body changes and organs shift during pregnancy

With all of the above going on and your body being pushed close to it’s maximum, it’s a lot, to put it lightly. Finding the energy and motivation to move more than you have to can be tough… but the benefits of staying active and strong through pregnancy are so vast, that if you can, you most certainly should.

Would you enter a marathon and do no training in preparation? There may be a crazy few that might… but most of us would have to put the time, energy and effort in to go the distance. Labour is that marathon… you need to be fit and strong, physically and mentally to go the duration!

Exercising whilst pregnant is A-OK, so long as you’re given the go-ahead from your GP and/or midwife, you’re not suffering from any *contraindications that would mean it wasn’t advised (listed below), and you feel up to it. It doesn’t have to be intense and over the top, but equally it doesn’t mean you have to go so easy. Every pregnancy and person are different, and all exercises can be adapted to accommodate and work with any pregnancy related aches, pains and associated physiological changes.

The benefits of exercise… some of the many:

  • Reduce swelling of limbs, nausea, fatigue (as tired as you feel endorphins will give you a major energy boost).
  • Reduce the risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension and gestational diabetes.
  • Prevent excessive weight gain – you’re going to gain weight, in areas that you carry/hold weight, as well as bump and boobs… weight-loss isn’t the focus, staying strong and active is.
  • Reduce risk of diastasis recti (abdominal separation) – I’m going to write a separate blog on this, but stats say that around 60% of women have this during or after pregnancy, my experience is that most have it, and it’s totally normal and to be expected. But exercising and maintaining muscle / core strength throughout pregnancy massively helps to minimise this.
  • Reduces back, pelvic and pregnancy related pains.
  • Facilitates and supports labour – that marathon! Also supports with speedier recovery.
  • Improves posture, maternal and mental well-being, self-esteem and sleep.
  • Supports placental and foetal growth.

This list could go on…

Considerations and adaptions to be made…

Here’s a handful of considerations to be made and things to be avoided when pregnant and exercising. There are lost of considerations and adaptions and again this list could go on… lots of factors that would influence this, such as the individual, how experienced they are, how regularly they exercised before being pregnant and so on… The best thing to do is to seek advice from someone qualified, join classes that are pregnancy specific. Some points to note…

  • Consider the risk element of exercise – high impact / contact and extreme sports pose a higher risk element of things that could go wrong, and so are advised to be avoided.
  • Exercising in a supine position (lying flat on your back) after the first trimester is a no-no. There’s lots of core exercises you can do on your sides and all-fours, engaging your core with all exercises is key, not just through pregnancy.
  • Avoid jumping and any heavy rotation / twisting exercises as you move on to the latter stages of trimesters 2 and 3.
  • Avoid overexertion – it’s not a time to be beasting yourself to oblivion, heart rate increases by 10-15% just being pregnant, when exercising you should be able to talk and go no higher than 6/7 out of 10 RPE.
  • Running is OK if that’s your thing, but it will get to a point where running puts too much pressure on your pelvic floor – this will be a different point in pregnancy for everyone.
  • Lifting heavy weights is OK too – but the heavier you go the more intra-abdominal force you exert and in turn more pressure you place on your pelvic floor. Consider any risk elements too with certain exercises.
  • Stay hydrated and make sure you fuel right – drink plenty throughout, eat before, after and even during if you need to.
  • Have adequate rest in-between sets and as you need to throughout an exercise session.

Benefits far outweigh any risks and exercising through a healthy pregnancy is advised by all health professionals. In a time when you have little control on your body physiologically, be empowered and take back some control through exercise and those incredible endorphins; for body, bump and mind.

If you have any questions about exercising through pregnancy get in touch and ask… and if you’d like to join my Mum-to-Be Bootcamp or find out more about prenatal PT check out the links below for more info.

Kate x

Call Kate on: 07875584383

Email: hello@brooks-fitness.co.uk

Alternatively fill out the contact form below and Kate will be in touch.

LikeStickersSparkle You can also follow on Facebook, check out our page and give it the thumbs up: Facebook.com/BrooksFitnessPT


*Contraindications meaning exercise would not be advised, include:

  • Haemodynamically significant heart disease
  • Restrictive lung disease
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Multiple gestation
  • Persistent bleeding
  • Placenta previa (after 26 weeks)
  • Premature labour
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Pregnancy induced hypertension
  • Pre-eclampsia

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