By Ben Stanford
There are a lot of misconceptions out there about how physically active pregnant women can and should be.
As a soon-to-be mama, you might be a little worried to go full tilt on your normal fitness routine – you’re carrying precious cargo, after all!
Below, we spell it out simply, and offer some guidelines for staying fit & healthy while pregnant.
DO work out!
Unlike days of yore, you’re not likely to see any kind of physician who suggests that a woman stop being active simply because they’re with child. These days, unless you have a specific condition that demands bed rest, pregnant women can continue to do cardiovascular and weight training – within reason.
If you’re an active person, no need to stop your activities of choice. Just be aware that some provisions may need to be made as your pregnancy progresses, and be sure to talk to your doctor, midwife, coach, or trainer. Also, listen to your body – if something feels quite uncomfortable or painful, stop. You know better than anyone what works and what doesn’t.
If you’ve never been much of fitness person, now might be a great time to start incorporating a little more movement into your life. A healthy mother typically equals a healthy baby, so consider working a few longer walks into your week, or try a similarly low-impact kind of exercise.
DON’T try kickboxing for the first time
All of that being said, now is NOT the time to try new, high-impact, high-intensity workouts. Never been a runner? Don’t start training for your first marathon. Afraid of the gym? Not the best time to think about getting into fitness competitions.
Anything that’s going to seriously deplete you or put stress on your little one as they grow is something you may want to avoid, particularly if you haven’t yet developed the skill or strength to do them safely.
That being said, if you are a high-intensity athlete, there are ways to continue your favorite sports safely – again, just talk to your personal trainer.
DO watch your heartrate
Again, if you were a fit, active person before getting pregnant, your heart rate isn’t likely to be much of an issue when pregnant.
If you’re trying to get more active because of your pregnancy, most sources agree that employing the “talk test” is the best way to ensure your heart rate stays in the optimal zone for cardiovascular health: if you can carry on a normally paced conversation while working out, your heart is likely doing just fine.
Bonus: if you’re conversing while working out, it means you’ve brought a friend along, which is an excellent tactic for motivation!
DON’T go crazy with the flexibility
Prenatal yoga is a great way to get ready for labour, but one thing you’ll notice if you attend a dedicated prenatal class is that there’s less of an emphasis placed on stretching and lengthening your muscles.
When you’re pregnant, your body generates the hormone relaxin. Relaxin isn’t just a clever name – it relaxes the muscles, tendons and tissues in a pregnant body, preparing it to open during labour.
One side effect of relaxin production is that your body will feel much, much more flexible than it actually is. Because the relaxin is also effectively weakening your muscles, you lose the integrity you need to stretch safely – and run the risk of some seriously pulled muscles.
Keep this in mind in a yoga class, but also while at the gym, and even while running – form will be super important during this period.
DO try classes tailored to your condition
We live in a wonderful modern world, where pregnant women have access to literally hundreds of options if they want to get fit or stay fit.
Check out your local rec centre or gym – chances are they have at least one or two classes tailored to prenatal fitness. These classes are great because they’ll keep you safe without making you feel weak or disempowered.
Our conclusion? Don’t be afraid to move while pregnant! It’ll keep you happy and healthy, which is a huge benefit to your wee one as they develop.
Keep this in mind in a yoga studio, but also while at the gym, and even while running – form will be super important during this period.
Growing up in Hope, BC, Ben Stanford from Physiotherapy Victoria, has been connected with Sport and Massage Therapy since his high school years. With a passion for the healing attributions of the human body and alternative medicine, he has worked his way towards a greater learning of integrated health principles.