The Do's and Don'ts of Pre-Natal Fitness
We're well aware that exercise is good for health, but when you're expecting, you may be wondering whether exercise is safe for you and especially for the baby. Should you stop or continue (or start)? If you are a seasoned marathon runner, a swimmer, an avid trekker, or an outdoor cyclist, do you have to modify your routine once you conceive?
While it's best to seek advice from your doctor, as every pregnancy is different, here's some general guidelines to help you know what you can do and should not do during your pregnancy:
Things you can do
Let's start with the fun part the things you can do to stay fit:
1. Get expert advice
A gynaecologist or a certified pre-natal fitness instructor will be able to guide you on how to modify your current exercise routine or design a new well-structured exercise regime and lifestyle for you based on your pregnancy. Some of you may already be working out at a gym or attending yoga classes, but once you conceive, you'll have to inform your instructor about tweaking your workout accordingly.
Remember, not every expecting mum needs the same kind of exercise, so make sure you follow expert advice and guidelines.
2. Do simple, low intensity exercises
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, moderate exercise for women with uncomplicated pregnancies does not compromise fetal well-being, even for previously sedentary women who only began to exercise during pregnancy.
In most cases, pre-natal workouts would be modified based on the trimester. For instance, during the first trimester, depending on your health, your pre-natal fitness trainer may recommend you do a 30-minute workout at least 3-5 times a week which would include walking, pre-natal pilates or pre-natal yoga, swimming, stationary cycling, water aerobics, or aerobic dance. You may also want to focus on building your strength in your back, shoulders, pectoral muscles and biceps so that you will be strong enough to hold your baby whenever they need you. This would eventually change once you enter your second and third trimester depending on your health and fitness levels.
Exercise is not advisable at all for women with certain medical conditions like Type 1 diabetes, asthma, or if you are bleeding/spotting or have a weak cervix or other pregnancy complications.
3. Stay hydrated
Staying well hydrated is very important for your fitness levels. Whether you work out or not, make sure you drink a glass of water every 20-30 minutes. During a pre-natal workout, you will tend to lose out on fluids, so make sure you keep sipping on water at least every half an hour.
4. Pelvic exercises
Depending on your health requirements, your fitness trainer will give you some simple pelvic exercises to help build strength in the region and the spine. This also works wonders to reduce the belly fat if continued post delivery as well.
5. Warm up & Cool down
It's imperative that you warm up before and cool down after exercise, especially during pregnancy. Warming up helps the body prep for exercise by progressively increasing the heart rate. When you warm up, it helps loosen up the joints, which allows the blood to flow through your muscles. Similarly, cooling down is equally important as it helps your body to restore to its resting levels. So make sure you never skip this routine.
Things you shouldn't
Things to keep in mind during your pregnancy:
1. Going overboard with your diet
During pregnancy, it is important to eat smart. By the time you're in the middle of your first trimester, you would have realised what you like eating and what you don't. Avoid 'eating for two' or binge eating. Your fitness levels are also based on what you eat, so you can start by keeping dry fruits and a hearty salad bowl as your in-between meal times to satiate your hunger pangs. This way you feel less guilty and land up controlling your weight and fitness levels too.
2. Overdoing the exercise
It's important that you tune into how your body responds during these exercises. A good benchmark to follow is that you should still be able to hold a conversation throughout your exercise. If you feel tired, out of breath, dizzy or feel a pain shooting up, it's best to raise the alarm button and inform your fitness trainer and your doctor. You must communicate clearly with them the things you can do and cannot, as in spite of them being experts, you know your body best.
3. Being active in intense sports
Needless to say, no matter how fit you may have been before your pregnancy, you've got to be extra cautious once you conceive. Even while you may not have any health issues, it's best to avoid intensive sports where chances of getting hurt, falling or getting hit are higher. For example, if you're using weights, use lighter weights and up the repetitions instead, and be very careful not to hit your abdomen. Check with your doctor whether you can join Pilates classes and up to what intensity.
4. Holding your breath
Holding your breath during an exercise or yoga practice is not recommended. Holding your breath could reduce the level of oxygen reaching your baby. You should ideally focus on simple deep breathing exercises that are far safer than holding your breath.
5. Lying on your stomach or back
Ideally, your fitness trainer should guide you while exercising, but as soon as you cross 16 weeks, it is best to avoid any exercise that makes you lie on your back. As the womb gets heavier after 16 weeks, it puts a pressure on the vein that carries blood from your lower body to the heart.
Pregnancy is meant to be enjoyed and one of the best way to go about it is by staying fit. Just by exercising simple caution when it comes to your fitness regimen, it can help you stay happy, healthy and stress free before you become a mum.
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