Our expert says:
There are a lot of ideas out there, and also many people who don't want to give an opinion, as you have found out. This tells you something - firstly, there is some risk and people don't want to commit to an opinion just in case it turns out badly. The fact that there are so many guidelines shows you some truth - where there is smoke there is fire, so to speak. however, let me set your mind at ease. Exercise during pregnancy is actually very beneficial. there is so much research that shows that babies born to active mothers are stronger, healthier and better off than those who are not. Just like diet and lifestyle can affect the baby, so too does exercise. The only critical thing is to not overdo it. And this is where it gets tricky (and is why there is so much confusion). you see, what is intense for one person is not necessarily for another. so, to you, who runs regularly, an 8 km easy jog is no big deal - I doubt you even get your body temperature that high. however, to someone who is starting out, it is and should be avoided. therefore, the advice that is given is often too conservative, so that everyone is covered. this is not a bad thing, however, because this is not something insignficant, so rather be safe than sorry. However, i am very confident that if you are very active before pregnancy, then you can continue your exercise at a slightly toned down level and be OK. 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.
What you need to remember is that the baby has a core temperature 1 degree higher than you do, so when you start to push up the intensity too much your core temperature goes up and consequently so does the baby’s. It is therefore also important that you keep cool during exercise wearing loose clothing and drinking lots of water. Also try to exercise in early morning or the evening when it is cooler. This is particularly important very very early on during the pregnancy in the first trimester and so keeping cool and keeping the intensity lower is very important.
You can do most activities in the gym such as cycling, treadmill, stepper and weight training. You will need to however avoid exercises on your back for extended periods or on your stomach. During pregnancy your body produces a hormone called Relaxin, which makes your ligaments lax in preparation for the birth. Therefore it is not advised that you do any jumping or jarring activities, as this will put you at greater risk to injury.
Here are some general guidelines for exercise:
• Avoid exercises that involve the VALSALVA manoeuvre or holding your breath. This means no lifting of heavy weights which force you to strain or hold your breath.
• 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.
You will also find that as your stomach gets bigger and your center of gravity changes it will be harder for you to keep your balance in activities that require quick changes of direction such as aerobics.
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.
Lastly, remember to do this whole thing with a doctor - if your gynae doesn't have the expertise about exercise, then get an opinion from one who does. It's not a slight on your doctor, it's just your responsibility to make sure that this baby gets the best shot it can!
Good luck and happy exercising.
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