Exercise during pregnancy
We know the do’s and don’ts of exercising during pregnancy and post birth can be confusing so we have extracted some key points to share with you from the Australian Government Department of Health report.
Pregnant women who do not have medical or obstetric contraindications (‘pregnancy conditions’ or ‘complications’) are encouraged to do both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises and learn how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly.
Aerobic activities which include brisk walking, cycling (stationary bike later in pregnancy), swimming, dancing, exercise classes, etc will maintain or improve cardiorespiratory fitness and endurance and help to avoid excess gestational weight gain.
Strengthening activities which include functional and postural exercises, will maintain or improve musculoskeletal health (including core strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition) and may help to reduce the severity of musculoskeletal discomfort (eg low back and pelvic girdle pain) as pregnancy progresses. Women are advised to engage with muscle-strengthening activities at least two days each week, using bodyweight, light weights or resistance bands. While resistance training is recommended, heavy lifting and intense repetitive isometric exercises are not, as information about safety is limited.
Pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises help to strengthen and improve the tone of the pelvic floor muscles and other tissues which provide perineal support for the pelvic structures. All women are encouraged to learn correct techniques and practice prior to and during pregnancy, then re-commence pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible after the birth.
- Previously inactive women should aim to start slowly increasing the amount of activity to accumulate 2.5 to 5 hours/week of at least moderate intensity.
- Women who were active prior to pregnancy can continue with their usual activities for as long as they feel comfortable. They are advised to check with a health professional if they would like to continue with vigorous-intensity or high-impact sports and exercise.
Most activities present minimal risk to the woman and the fetus/unborn child, but some modifications to specific exercises will be required to accommodate the physical (anatomical and physiological) changes which occur as pregnancy progresses:
- For example, after 28 weeks, activities/exercises normally done in the supine position (lying on back) should be modified by tilting the upper body to 45 degrees or completing the activities/exercises while lying on the side.
- Some yoga poses and post-activity/exercise stretching may also be modified later in pregnancy because of the hormonal effects on joint laxity.