All women who are pregnant without complications should be motivated to take part in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises as part of a healthy lifestyle while in their pregnancy. A reasonable goal should be to manage a good fitness level during maternity without trying to reach peak fitness.
It is important to stay well hydrated, wear relaxed and non-restrictive clothing (such as a properly fitted bra and suitable footwear) and where possible, stay away from excessive over-heating.
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
One advantage of exercise while in pregnancy is increasing your physical and mental wellbeing. Keeping a healthy weight during pregnancy helps in coming back to your pre-baby weight more quickly and also decreases the risk of developing gestational diabetes, which is more common in mothers who are overweight.
Risks of exercise during pregnancy
There are presently no known adverse risks to a pregnant woman that are connected with meeting the suggested guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity per week.
However, as pregnancy progresses, the body goes via important changes, such as improved laxity (looseness) of joints, changes in centre of gravity and an improved resting heart rate. Therefore, variations to programs may need to be considered.
Women who are pregnant and taking part in activities that need a high degree of balance or rapid changes in route should consult with their doctor first. Your doctor may suggest that you see a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist for a program that can be developed for you.
Frequency and intensity of exercise during pregnancy
Pregnant women should aim to meet the recommended physical activity levels of the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines, which is 150 minutes of average intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise, or a combination of both. No research to date has recognized a ‘safe’ upper-limit to exercise intensity.
The ‘talk test’ can be used to guide the strength in which pregnant women are suggested to exercise. As the name indicates, the women is exercising at a relaxed strength if she is able to maintain a conversation during exercise. She should decrease the exercise intensity if this is not possible.
Cautions for pregnancy exercise
While most forms of work out are safe, there are some exercises that include positions and movements that may be uncomfortable or dangerous for pregnant women. Be advised by your doctor or physio therapist, but general cautions include:
• Avoid increasing your body temperature too high – for example, don’t soak in hot spas or work out to the point of heavy sweating. Decrease your level of exercise on hot or humid days.
• Don't work out to the point of tiredness.
• If weight training, choose low weights and method to high repetitions – avoid raising heavy weights altogether.
• Avoid work out if you are ill or feverish.
• If you don’t feel like exercising on a specific day, don’t! It is significant to listen to your body to prevent unnecessarily depleting your energy reserves.
• Don’t improve the intensity of your sporting system while you are pregnant, and always work at less than 75 per cent of your highest possible heart rate.
• In inclusion, if you develop an illness or a problem of pregnancy, talk with your doctor or midwife before continuous or restoring your exercise program.