Exercising for Two

Sometimes, the thought of getting up and getting moving can be tough – especially when it is cold outside and it is warm and cosy inside. But you don’t need a personal trainer to tell you that exercise and keeping yourself fit is extremely important and it will pay off in the way you feel about yourself, the way your clothes fit and both the short and long term physical and mental health benefits. But what happens when it’s not just yourself that you have to think about – can you exercise when you have a baby on board?

The simple answer is yes. It is even more important to incorporate movement into your day when pregnant as it will help keep your body strong and ready for the birth but during pregnancy you need to approach it with extra caution. Whether you're a regular exerciser looking to continue your regime during pregnancy, or a former couch potato looking to get moving, check out the following information that will help to keep yourself and your baby safe.

1. Get checked.
Consult with your doctor or obstetrician and ensure you are good to go as a first port of call. It doesn’t matter if you are already engaged in a fitness program or looking to start once you learn you are pregnant, get yourself approved for an appropriate exercise plan.

2. Eat (a little) more
A pregnant woman needs to take in an additional 300 to 500 calories a day but if you are exercising as well, make sure this is enough. Don’t take the ‘eating for two’ mantra to extremes and overeat and make sure you are making healthy choices that will nourish and strengthen your body.

3. It’s too hot
Avoid exercise in hot, humid environments or working so hard you overheat, and always stay well hydrated. This is especially true during the first trimester as this is when your bub’s major organs are forming. Also avoid saunas and steam baths during pregnancy as these will increase your core temperature.

Everyone feels the impact of overheating differently but pay attention if you're sweating a lot, feel uncomfortably warm, or feel dizzy or short of breath. On hot and/or humid days, skip your workout or exercise indoors in a well-ventilated, air-conditioned room. Wear loose, non-binding clothing and drink plenty of water.

4. Mind your position
Avoid lying flat on your back, especially after the first trimester. This position puts too much pressure on a major vein called the vena cava which reduces the blood flow to your brain and uterus. It can make you dizzy, short of breath and/or nauseated. Even if you feel comfortable in this position, don’t be fooled as it can still be causing problems so be careful!

5. Mix it Up
Choose a mixture of weight bearing and non weight bearing activities such as walking, low impact aerobics, light weights, yoga, Pilates, cycling, swimming and aqua fitness. Avoid heavy lifting and holding the breath. Do not perform lunges or wide squats as they may lead to lower back pain or pelvic pain

6. Cool it
When you finish your workout, make sure you take some time to cool down. Stopping exercise suddenly, or going directly from aerobic exercise to lying on the floor can also have detrimental effects on the baby so walk on the spot or around the gym until your heart rate settles before dropping to the floor and completing your stretches.

7. Be gentle
Even if you're normally graceful, keep in mind that the increased levels of the hormone relaxin during pregnancy, which relax pelvic joints in preparation for childbirth, loosen all ligaments and joints, making you more susceptible to sprains and injury from falls. As your joints are more lax, avoid deep stretching to avoid injury. Avoid contact sports as well as activities that might throw you off-balance, such as horseback riding or biking.

8. Look after the girls
Wear a supportive bra while exercising to avoid overstretching the breast ligaments. It is worth being fitted by a professional to ensure you have the right support and correct style of bra as your breasts will go through significant changes as your pregnancy progresses and the wrong bra can impact your ability to breast feed.

9. Mind your posture
Always maintain correct posture and form during exercise. Have your personal trainer assess your posture throughout pregnancy, keeping watch for musculoskeletal changes. Brace your abdominal muscles and be aware of your back at all times. Your centre of gravity will change with your expanding belly so don’t assume you can do the same thing at each work out. You will need to adjust to meet the changes within your body.

10. Hydration is key
Pregnant or not, you should drink plenty of water when exercising. Becoming dehydrated when pregnant can cause contractions and raise your body temperature to levels that are dangerous for you and your baby. Drink water before, during and after your workout.

Just remember, get yourself checked out by your medical adviser and discuss your exercise plans to make sure you are safe to proceed. If you are, enjoy your workouts and know that you are doing the right thing keeping yourself fit and strong as you prepare for labour and parenthood.