The Role of Exercise Throughout Pregnancy – Lori Ryan AEP

The notion of exercise during pregnancy might evoke questions or hesitation for some, but it’s a subject that deserves attention. Contrary to outdated beliefs, engaging in regular exercise during pregnancy can yield countless benefits for both the mother and the growing baby; recent research has proven time and again that appropriate exercise is not only safe, but highly necessary for the health of both mum and bub. 

What are the Benefits?

Engaging in regular exercise during pregnancy offers a multitude of benefits for both the expectant mother and baby:

  • Improved Physical Health: Regular physical activity can alleviate common discomforts of pregnancy such as backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling. It also aids in maintaining a healthy weight, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, and promoting cardiovascular health.
  • Enhanced Mental Well-being: Pregnancy can evoke a spectrum of emotions. Exercise serves as a natural mood enhancer, releasing endorphins that combat stress, anxiety, and depression. It fosters a sense of well-being and relaxation, crucial for navigating the emotional rollercoaster that is pregnancy.
  • Preparation for Labour and Delivery: Labour and delivery demand physical endurance and strength. By staying active, women can enhance their stamina, strength, and flexibility, invaluable assets during childbirth. Exercises such as prenatal yoga, swimming, and strength training can aid in preparing the body for the rigors of labour.
  • Postpartum Recovery: Maintaining a regular exercise routine during pregnancy expedites postpartum recovery. It assists in regaining muscle strength, facilitating weight loss, and restoring energy levels after childbirth.
  • Bonding Opportunity: Exercise becomes a shared activity for many expectant parents, fostering connection and bonding. It is also vital to understand that before falling pregnant, the health of both parents is extremely important in improving the likelihood of conceiving and having a successful pregnancy.

What are the Exercise Guidelines?

While exercise is encouraged during pregnancy, it’s imperative to approach it mindfully. Every body is unique, and what feels comfortable and safe for one may not be suitable for another. Here are some general guidelines to consider:

  • Consult with Healthcare Provider: Before initiating any exercise regimen, consult with a healthcare provider, particularly if there are pre-existing medical conditions or pregnancy complications. It would be recommended to seek medical clearance prior to exercising, and access guidance from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist or a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist.
  • Stay Hydrated: Adequate hydration is paramount, especially during pregnancy. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience fatigue, dizziness, pain, or any unusual symptoms during exercise, stop immediately and seek medical advice.
  • Modify as Needed: As pregnancy progresses, modify exercise routines accordingly following the guidance of your healthcare team.
  • Wear Supportive Clothing: Invest in supportive footwear and comfortable, breathable clothing that accommodates your growing belly.

The Importance of Varied Exercise Modalities

In addition to the general guidelines mentioned above, incorporating a variety of exercise modalities throughout pregnancy can provide unique benefits:

Strength Training: Strength training can help improve muscle mass, combat changes to joint stability experienced throughout pregnancy, and alleviate common pregnancy-related discomforts such as lower back pain.

Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise is essential for maintaining cardiovascular health, managing weight gain, and boosting energy levels during pregnancy. Engage in activities such as brisk walking, swimming, or stationary cycling. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, spread across several days.

Mobility Training: As pregnancy progresses, changes in posture and weight distribution can lead to decreased mobility and flexibility. Incorporating mobility exercises can help alleviate stiffness, improve range of motion, and enhance overall comfort. Focus on gentle stretches for major muscle groups, particularly the hips, lower back, and shoulders. Practices such as prenatal yoga and gentle stretching routines can be particularly beneficial.

Exercise Guidelines

FITT PrincipleGuideline
FrequencyMost or all days of the week with a minimum of 3 days
IntensityModerate intensity   Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) 13-14 on a scale of 6-20 for aerobic activity OR 5-6 on a scale of 1-10 for resistance training   Talk test- can talk but not sing   Women who engaged in vigorous intensity aerobic activity can continue these activities if they remain healthy and discuss with their health care provider
Time>150 minutes each week 20-30 minutes per day
TypeAerobic and resistance training   Women who engaged in vigorous intensity aerobic activity can continue these activities if they remain healthy and discuss with their health care provider

Embrace the Journey

Pregnancy is a journey filled with new experiences and transformation. By incorporating a diverse range of exercise modalities into this journey, expectant mothers can nurture their physical and emotional well-being, preparing themselves for the joys and challenges of childbirth and motherhood, while also looking after your growing bub. Remember, each pregnancy is unique, so approach exercise with flexibility and mindfulness. Through listening to your body’s cues, seeking guidance from healthcare providers, and embracing movement with intention, you can embark on this journey with confidence.