How do you build the stamina and strength required for labour, birth and beyond with SAFE pregnancy exercise? You can prepare your body to cope, and to recover quicker, through preparation during pregnancy: by safely staying fit and healthy, and by working with your changing body.
Regular pregnancy exercise will improve fitness, maintain a better self-image, and help you to feel positive about your pregnancy, your labour and your delivery. Don’t try to dramatically increase your fitness during pregnancy, (however you can start exercising now, even if you didn’t before – start with just walking, and some of the exercises in this post) but look to maintain a basic fitness level.
Modify your pregnancy exercise programme as your pregnancy progresses, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, and don’t over-exert yourself.
There is no evidence to support the fear that pregnancy exercise increases the risk of miscarriage, premature labour or of congenital defects. All available evidence indicates that a low-risk pregnant woman, with the consent of her Midwife or Doctor, will gain significant health benefits from continuing or starting a regular exercise programme.
What Type of Pregnancy Exercise Should You Do and How Often? Aim for a balanced pregnancy exercise programme, including both aerobic exercise (when your body keeps moving and your heart rate is elevated for a length of time) and resistance training (to build muscle strength). Aerobic exercise could include walking, low impact aerobics, swimming or cycling. Try to do 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise, 3-4 times a week, and choose something you enjoy! Reduce intensity and/or duration as your pregnancy progresses.
A Fit Ball (sometimes called a Birth Ball) can be invaluable throughout pregnancy, during labour, and for exercising afterwards. Sit on the ball instead of a sofa or chair to maintain good posture and strengthen your core muscles (stomach and lower back). By focussing on sitting up straight on the ball you can help prevent backache and other discomforts caused by slouching and bad posture.
Try other positions on the ball to ease discomfort, and help your baby to move into the right position in later pregnancy.
Your pregnancy exercise programme should include strength training to tone and shape your body. Strength exercises will not give you big muscles, but simply strengthen the areas of the body most weakened by the postural effects of pregnancy, and your changing centre of gravity and posture.
The important muscles to strengthen during pregnancy exercise are your upper back (to prevent slouching), lower back and core muscles (for posture, support and strength) and the backs of your thighs and bottom (these muscles can get weaker and stretched during pregnancy due to postural changes).
The most important thing to remember when exercising during pregnancy is that weight loss, or reduced weight gain, should NOT be your primary goal or focus. You are exercising and eating well in order to be strong and fit, and to give yourself the stamina needed over the coming months… enjoy fresh air and exercise with this in mind, and you’ll look and feel great!