Firstly and most importantly, you need your doctor’s advice. They will make a call on whether or not you can exercise – and how much – based on what they know about your health and any risks to you and your unborn child (or unborn children … #multiples #instantfamily).
If all is well, then as a general rule, the kind of exercise you were doing in the six months prior to falling pregnant you can continue doing for the first trimester at a minimum.
Of course, this all depends on how you’re feeling in that first trimester, which can be absolute hell for those who feel nauseous for 90 per cent of their day, every day, for the first three months (or longer, for some poor souls). I recently had a client who lost 5 kilograms during her first trimester courtesy of morning sickness (actually, ‘all-day sickness’).
Let’s say that everything is going according to plan. The aim of exercising during pregnancy is simple – to prepare your body for childbirth (they call it ‘labour’ for a reason) and the months that follow. The fitter and healthier you are during your pregnancy, the better your recovery will be after birth. In addition, regular exercise helps to reduce the risk of complications like gestational diabetes.
From an exercise perspective, there’s a few things you need to focus on:
Good cardio fitness: It doesn’t mean you’ll be doing HIIT training right up until you’re racing to the hospital to give birth (#burpeebirth). But it does mean that at the very least you should be doing a light form of cardio exercise, like walking or even an easy cycle.
Strength training: Consider that during pregnancy you’ll be carrying around the weight of another small human, and afterwards you’ll continue carrying that human as it gets bigger and heavier. You should continue to work on strenghtening your back, arms and shoulders, as well as your legs.
Circulation: Pressure on your lower body and your movement naturally slowing down means you need to ensure you’re still getting good circulation to your feet and legs. Simple things like walking, getting up and moving around your office or house every 20 minutes, and calf raises are going to help to keep that blood pumping.
A few things to remember:
- Core training during pregnancy is pointless. Your stomach muscles are stretching to accommodate a growing human. In fact, if you’ve done a lot of core training up until getting pregnant, you might be at a higher risk of having abdominal separation during pregnancy.
- If you feel any unusual pain, or if you feel faint, dizzy, or sick during exercise, stop immediately and seek help.
- You, your trainer and your doctor need to keep an eye on your blood pressure. High blood pressure during pregnancy poses a real risk to you and your unborn child. Low blood pressure causes dizziness and fainting (and you really don’t want to fall over when pregnant)!
- Avoid training at heights – eg, on stairs or standing on a bench or step. As your tummy expands in front of you, it alters your centre of gravity, pulling you forward and putting you off balance.
- Drink HEAPS of water. Yes, I know, there’s already a squirming feotus pressing on your bladder and causing you to pee a few millilitres every hour. But keeping hydrated is absolutely critical to ensure good blood flow to you and your bub.