by Gill Du Toit, Physiotherapist When you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t stop exercising. Exercise during pregnancy is safe, including if you haven’t been active before (within reason of course.) In fact, it’s been shown to have many benefits that will help you through pregnancy such as helping stamina in labour, reducing the need for a C-section, preventing gestational diabetes, improving blood flow to your baby, and maintaining a healthy weight. Here are some guidelines for exercising during pregnancy: Beginners: It is recommended that women who are new to pregnancy start with gentle exercise such as brisk walking or pilates for 15 minutes, 3 times a week. Gradually progress to 30 minutes, 4-7 times a week. Swimming can be a lovely form of exercise through your pregnancy especially as your bump gets bigger, as the water takes some of the weight. Don’t take up strenuous activity that you aren’t used to if you are just beginning to exercise. Non-beginners: Exercise as you normally have for as long as you feel comfortable. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise at least, 4 times a week. Avoid getting to the point of being totally breathless unless you are very used to that from before your pregnancy. Do what feels good, being aware that you may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses especially in the 3rdtrimester. If it’s uncomfortable, stop. Remember, it’s ok to do strengthening as well as aerobic activity during pregnancy. Things to be mindful of:
- Keep hydrated and drink plenty of fluids
- Listen to your body and stop doing anything that’s becoming uncomfortable
- You should be able to hold a conversation while exercising, if you’re getting quite breathless, slow it down a bit.
- Exercising in hot conditions.
- Lying on your back for prolonged periods while exercising. Keep it to a few minutes at most.
- Contact sports after the first trimester.
- Scuba diving.
- Be extra cautious with sports that have a risk of falling such as horse-riding and skiing.