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Family life 07 Oct 2020

Pregnancy workouts

Stay fit while pregnant with bump-friendly workout routines

Pregnant woman on exercise ball, using a resistance band

From yoga and Pilates to cardio workouts and weight training, there’s no need to give up your favourite exercise routine when you’re expecting. In fact, there are some significant health benefits to finding a fitness routine for you and your bump. And with so many prenatal classes and trainers available, it’s never been easier to stay fit, glow with endorphins, improve your mental wellbeing and prepare your body for labour.

Before you leap into a prenatal fitness routine, check in with your healthcare professional to make sure you’re in the ‘low risk’ category. Once you have the all clear, it’s time to find your perfect workout.

Why slip on your gym shoes?

Exercising during pregnancy offers a whole host of positives, from reducing discomfort to quashing stress and giving women some much-needed ‘me time’. “With each stage of pregnancy comes new stresses, and exercise can help antenatal women on their journey,” says Alex Marks, specialist prenatal personal trainer at On Your Marks. “Lifting weights and moving dynamically can heighten physical awareness and leaves a lot of expectant mothers more empowered.”

What’s more, exercise improves your mood, strengthens the heart and promotes the kind of strong, healthy muscles that protect your joints – just what you need during pregnancy.

Take the tailor-made option

While listening to your own body is key, guidance from a fitness specialist can improve your prenatal workouts significantly. A tailor-made plan from a trainer or teacher who has worked with other expectant mothers will not only give you plenty of tips and tricks, it will also provide a sounding board to create the ideal routine.

A trainer can also help you break misconceptions about what you can and can’t do during pregnancy, keeping you safer and fitter all the way to your due date.

Pregnant women doing yoga

Fitness for all trimesters

You might be surprised that you can still enjoy your favourite exercises during pregnancy. While it’s perfectly normal to feel a little stiffer, more tired and find yourself struggling with posture, most fitness routines can be adapted to suit your needs – whether you’re a fan of low-impact exercises like swimming and Pilates to higher-intensity choices like weightlifting. As you move into your second trimester, swap exercise that’s tough on your joints, like running, for other forms of cardio.

Alex suggests that once you hit 16 weeks, you should “avoid exercises that involve lying on your back as this can slow the flow of blood back to the heart and make you feel faint”. And whether you’re in your first trimester or your third, if you’re considering radical changes to your exercise plan, it’s important to have a word with your midwife or obstetrician.

Welcome changes

Some of the changes pregnancy brings are very obvious, but others are subtler. Relaxin is a natural hormone that prepares the body for birth by softening ligaments and tendons to relax the pelvis and cervix. However, it also affects other joints. This could increase the risk of pregnant women sustaining ankle sprains and soft-tissue knee injuries when exercising.

Relaxin can also lead to a false sense of flexibility, where mums-to-be find they are able to reach deeper stretches than ever before. But getting deeper into lunges or poses than pre-pregnancy could actually put unnecessary pressure on ligaments. Be mindful of how you’re feeling and how your body responds to exercises, and always ask your trainer for an alternative if something feels amiss.

Know when to take a break

The intensity of exercise you’re comfortable with will vary depending on your workout history, your pregnancy and your overall fitness level. The important thing is to not push yourself into uncomfortable territory.

“Work up to a sweat, but not so far that you lose your breath,” Alex says. “If you’re finding it hard to breathe while talking and exercising, you should ease off the pedal.” Enjoy the benefits of being healthy and active without pushing yourself too hard.

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