Our expert says:
First things first, before starting any exercises during pregnancy, medical permission is vital and so I would suggest that she get clearance from a doctor or gynaecologist before starting up. This is crucial, and once it’s obtained, it’s advisable to keep monitoring it with the doctor, at all times.
Then, in terms of what to do, it depends a lot on what her exercise routine was like before pregnancy. You mentioned that you've been going to the gym for 6 months, which is good, because there will be a decent level of fitness to maintain from that. It's usually safe to just continue with a similar exercise routine at a lower intensity if you were active before pregnancy. If not, then it obviously complicates things a little because there's the dual challenge of getting fit and handling the various physiological changes associated with pregnancy at the same time.
However, the key is intensity and most exercises are safe provided they are done at a well-controlled intensity, which usually means take it easy! Pregnancy is hardly the time to get fit and improve performance. Nor is it the time to suddenly embark on the weight loss programme that she might have been meaning to tackle for the previous two years! Rather, exercise during pregnancy is all about maintaining, keeping healthy and preparing – the weight loss and fitness can come later.
There are a couple of hotspots or potential problem stages during pregnancy. The first and third trimester are the more risky phases, for different reasons.
In the first trimester, when incredible growth and development is taking place for the baby, it’s important to bear in mind that the baby has a core temperature 1 degree higher than she does. And so when she starts to push up the intensity too much, her core temperature goes up and consequently so does the baby’s. It is therefore also important that she keep cool during exercise wearing loose clothing and make sure you don’t overdo it and train too hard – remember, the main thing determining body temperature is how hard you exercise, so take it easy! Also try to exercise in early morning or the evening when it is cooler.
As the pregnancy moves on, the problems become more practical in nature – balance is affected, because her centre of mass will change, and the body also starts to produce a hormone called relaxin, which makes the ligaments much more flexible and lax. The combination of these changes means that joint injuries and small aches and pains become much more prominent. For this reason, activities that are dynamic and quite high impact (like running, aerobics, taebo etc) are probably best phased out from her training. Insteady, things like cycling, swimming, pilates, and weight training may be better options. This is of course entirely dependent on her unique situation – some mothers walk or run into month nine. Others find they can’t and shift to swimming by about the 7th month! Swimming, and water aerobics are two of the best forms of exercise, highly recommended for later in pregnancy. Also, if she does continue with the gym, avoid heavy weight lifting where she has to strain and hold your breath to lift the weight – rather go lighter and don’t strain.
Here are some additional guidelines for exercise:
• Avoid exercises that involve lying on your back after the 4th month (after the first trimester) as the pregnant uterus may compress the aorta and cause a decrease of blood flow to the fetus.
• Avoid exercise in which there is danger of loss of balance.
• Avoid long periods of motionless standing
• It is NOT recommended that you start an exercise programme in the first trimester if you have been previously inactive.
As your pregnancy progresses and you start to feel more tired you can move your training into the pool and take up swimming or aqua aerobics, which you will find very soothing during the final months of your pregnancy.
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