Exercise Do’s and Don’ts
One of the many questions women have when they become pregnant is whether or not they should exercise in pregnancy.
According to the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines, pregnant women are encouraged to exercise during pregnancy provided they have a normal pregnancy without complications.
For some women who have complications with their pregnancy (such as high blood pressure, placenta praevia or signs of early labour) exercise may not be suitable. Therefore it is highly recommended you seek medical advice before undertaking any form of exercise if you do have complications or are unsure.
Below are some important things to consider when exercising during a normal, healthy pregnancy.
Exercise is important during pregnancy as it helps to reduce anxiety and stress. It also prepares your body for labour and it can help you manage your pregnancy weight.
Some things to consider when exercising are:
- Aim for low impact exercise (such as walking or swimming).
- Aim for moderate-intensity exercise (being able to talk while you exercise is a good measure of a moderate intensity level).
- Duration should be at least 30 minutes on most days of the week if you are already active prior to pregnancy.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing and always carry a water bottle with you.
- Always listen to your body.
If you have not exercised before pregnancy, always discuss exercise options and duration with your doctor first before commencing any exercise programme.
Whilst exercise is important during a normal pregnancy, there are some types of exercise that you should avoid during pregnancy which include:
- Avoid high impact or contact sports (such as netball, hockey or running).
- Avoid getting too hot when exercising. Avoid exercising in the middle of the day, on hot or humid days.
- Never exercise to the point of exhaustion.
- Avoid activities which result in a change of pressure (such as sky diving or scuba diving).
- Avoid spa baths and saunas as these can increase your body temperature, which can have adverse effects on your baby.
- Avoid exercises on your back after the fourth month of pregnancy, as the weight from your baby can reduce blood supply to you.
Never exercise when you are feeling unwell or have a fever.
Adapt your exercise to suit your stage of pregnancy
Your body will be continually changing throughout your pregnancy, therefore it is important to always listen to your body and adapt your exercise to suit your stage of pregnancy.
- Due to hormonal changes your ligaments are more relaxed in pregnancy, which can increase your risk for sprains in your joints. Therefore it is best to avoid over-stretching during exercise.
- Pregnancy results in an increased heart rate
- Using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion scale (RPE), is a good way to measure how intense your exercise is, rather than measuring your heart rate.
- A RPE of between 12-14 is a recommended intensity level for exercise – you should be able to walk whilst exercising at this intensity.
- As your weight and body shape change, so does your centre of gravity, which can affect your balance and co-ordination. Avoid exercise that demands high levels of balance (such as gymnastics).
- In a normal pregnancy, blood pressure typically drops in both the first and second trimester. Therefore try to avoid changing positions too quickly when exercising (i.e. from lying down to standing) so as to avoid symptoms of light-headedness and dizziness.
Warning signs to look out for when exercising
If you experience any of the following symptoms when exercising, it is important to stop immediately and seek medical attention.
- Vaginal bleeding or a ‘gush’ of fluid from your vagina
- Severe shortness of breath
- Cramps or pains in your stomach
- Swelling or pain in your leg
- Severe dizziness, headache or blurred vision