Recently I attended a fantastic course on exercise during pregnancy and the post partum period. I learnt so much and had what I already knew reaffirmed by an expert in the field (women’s health physiotherapist Taryn Watson from FitRight). I thought I would write up a little summary of the key modifications you should make to exercise during pregnancy. This is a very brief explanation of the changes you should make to your workouts. If you would like to know more detail such as why you should be avoiding certain things, I recommend you follow some physios and personal trainers who are specialists in this area. Here are the eight things to consider when exercising whilst pregnant:
- Avoid exercising at very high intensities. This particularly applies to people who were not regularly exercising before falling pregnant. A very high intensity is considered the level where you are not able to hold a conversation.
- From 16 – 20 weeks onwards avoid lying flat on your back to exercise. It is ok to lie on your back on an incline e.g. doing hip thrusts with your shoulders resting on a fit ball or bench press on an incline bench.
- Avoid lying on your stomach to exercise. This is simply uncomfortable!
- Avoid overheating. Exercising in an air conditioned environment out of the sun or in water is ideal.
- Avoid high impact exercise. High impact exercise puts an increased load on your pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor is already experiencing an increased load from the weight of your baby and the hormones which relax your ligamants and muscles. Rather than further increasing your risk for pelvic floor dysfunction I recommend avoiding high impact exercises (jogging, burpees, lunge jumps etc.) There are plenty of low impact exercise options: spin classes, walking, swimming, aquarobic classes and weight training.
- Avoid exercises which cause a strain to your rectus abdominis (six pack) muscle. Straining this weakened muscle can make your abdominal separation (correctly known as rectus abdominis diastasis) worse. Straining your separated abdominals can also increase your risk of developing an abdominal hernia, back pain and chance of it not healing well post-birth. Some examples of exercises which target your rectus abdominis muscle and therefore should be avoided are push ups, crunches, sit ups, planks and bicycle crunches.
- Avoid holding your breath during exercise. Remember to breathe regularly and if you find yourself straining and holding your breath it probably means you are lifting or pushing a weight which is too heavy. A recent study found you can still get the same hypertrophy results when lifting light weights for moderate reps to failure as lifting heavier weights for moderate reps to failure.
- Avoid any exercise which involves a risk of force to the tummy. For example contact sports and sports which involve a risk of falling such as skiing or horse riding.
I hope these simple guidelines give you the confidence to continue exercising whilst pregnant – there are so many benefits both mental and physical!