Exercise and fitness for pregnancy

Exercise and fitness for pregnancy

Exercise before, during and after pregnancy plays an important part in the health and wellbeing of mother and baby. But exercise in pregnancy should be done in moderation, which is why a ‘pay as you go’ gym scheme is ideal for women looking to maintain fitness during pregnancy. In addition, finding time to exercise with a little one is not so easy, which is why flexible payments and options make much more sense.

If you’re planning to conceive there are two main reasons why it helps to be healthy and fit before getting pregnant. Firstly, moderate exercise can help reduce stress and lead to a healthier body generally. This means your body will be in an optimum state to conceive.

Secondly, pregnancy, labour and looking after a little one are all physically demanding. If you’re used to an active lifestyle your fitness and strength will definitely help with all three. If you are used to keeping fit, you may find it easier to adapt to pregnancy than someone who is out of shape.

However, the key phrase here is moderation. Whilst it can be no bad thing to be as healthy as possible, there is no firm evidence that exercising regularly increases your chances of conception. In fact, studies have shown that women who exercise excessively, and women who do a lot of cardio activity, such as running and high impact aerobics, may experience more problems conceiving. So if you are trying to conceive consider swapping your full on ball-busting workout for some gentle swimming, yoga or Pilates.

For those ladies lucky enough to find themselves successfully pregnant,  it’s tempting to think that’s an excuse to put your feet up for nine months and eat nothing but chocolate! However, there are a number of reasons why moderate exercise is just as important, if not more so, during pregnancy than at any other time:

  • Energy levels will be boosted. As the body works to pump more oxygen, the heart and lungs are strengthened, aiding a reduction in tiredness.
  • Good circulation is maintained.
  • Physical awareness and control will be increased, encouraging good posture.
  • Muscle tone, strength and endurance are improved. This means  it will take less effort to perform daily tasks, will help you carry the weight gain, will prepare for the physical stress of labour & birth, and will ease the process of getting back into shape.
  • The risk of pregnancy complications such as gestation diabetes and pre-eclampsia is reduced.
  • Mum-to-be will sleep better at night.

However, it is essential to be careful when exercising during pregnancy. Your heart rate should not rise above 140 beats per minute, and strenuous exercise should be limited to 15 minutes. An intensive cardio workout will raise the body temperature, causing blood vessels to narrow, which actually reduces blood flow and hence oxygen supply to the uterus. Jerky movements, bouncing and jumping should be avoided due to the potential impact on your joints (made more significant by your increased weight gain), and contact sports such as hockey or netball should be avoided all together. And lastly, always remember to stop if you experience any discomfort or pain.

So what does that leave you? Many gyms and fitness centres will offer specially structured exercise classes for pregnant women. For example, low impact aerobics, which will include a cardio section, muscle strengthening section and a cool-down. And many gyms will also offer yoga classes especially tailored towards pregnant women. Yoga is an excellent form of exercise during pregnancy in addition to aiding core stability and strength, there is a focus on relaxation techniques and breathing techniques in preparation for labour. Always remember to check that the class is suitable for pregnant women and that the instructor is suitably qualified.

As well as exercise classes, other gym facilities that are useful during pregnancy are the treadmill for speed walking (much more preferable to running), and gentle swimming, or water based exercise such as aqua-aerobics. Exercising in water whilst pregnant is especially beneficial as is causes less strain on your joints, relieves back strain as the uterus is supported by the water. In addition, the resistance of the water will boost the good effects of the exercise.

And what about after the big event? The majority of women will be looking to get back into shape and will probably have to undertake some form of exercise to achieve this. However, it is important to remember to wait six weeks after the birth before embarking on regular exercise in order to give your body time to recover. And with a little one in tow, it will be even harder to find time to get in the exercise that you would like.

However, there are options. Research the internet, local library or local support  groups to find exercise classes specially tailored towards mummies and babies where the babies simply come along with you. Such classes may involve jogging with baby and buggy in tow, or other forms of low impact aerobic style classes. Many gyms will hold yoga classes in the evening; the perfect opportunity for the daddy to have some special bonding time with your new family addition. Abdominal exercises such as abdominal curls and other basic toning exercises will help tone the stomach muscles and can easily be done at home. And don’t forget to make the most of your local green spaces and walking with a buggy – don’t underestimate the difference walking can make.

So we’ve highlighted the importance of exercise for before, during and after pregnancy and hopefully given you some hints and tips of how to get started and what not to do. There is a big emphasis on exercise in moderation during pregnancy which means a regular gym membership may not be so relevant. PayasUgym offers flexible payment options for gym sessions, exercise classes and fitness facilities, so you can enjoy the benefits of keeping healthy, without the commitment or cost of a gym contract.

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