Like with many aspects of pregnancy (and parenthood!), conflicting advice abounds about what exercise you should and shouldn’t do. On the one side you’ve got your great-aunt telling you that simply lifting your arms above your head will wrap the umbilical cord around your baby’s neck, and on the other there’s that mum in the news who ran a marathon one morning, only to casually push out a baby that afternoon. Meanwhile, simply being pregnant is so exhausting that rolling over in bed feels like a full-body workout… but you still want to stay fit for your and your baby.
What’s a mum-to-be to do?”
We put that question to Lauren Gabriel, physiotherapist and director of Preggi Bellies, which runs cardio and core stability classes for pregnant and postnatal women in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra.
According to Gabriel, pregnancy is the ideal time to be exercising, even if you weren’t a fitness freak before.
The benefits of exercising during pregnancy are exactly the same as any other time of your life: good cardio health, weight control, building muscle tone, preventing osteoporosis. With pregnant women though, the benefits extend to helping with your mental wellbeing. It actually really benefits your child as well; babies cope better during delivery.”
But not all forms of exercise are created equal when it comes to pregnancy.
As well as exercises with obvious risks such as horse riding and skydiving, Gabriel warned against more common exercises such as running, weight lifting and heavy abdominal workouts during pregnancy – but not for the reasons you might think.
“It’s safe for your baby – but not your pelvic floor,” she said.
With one in three women having continence problems post-birth, core and pelvic strength are the most important things to focus on in a pregnancy fitness routine. Because nothing’s foxier than being able to sneeze without having to cross your legs!
So, what are the best ways to keep fit during pregnancy?
According to Gabriel:
- Walking (although can be painful for some women if they have pelvic instability)
- Light weights or body weight exercises, especially squats, which help with back and pelvic strength
- Stationary bike
- Core exercises using a stability ball or Theraband, such as those offered in classes by Preggi Bellies
So you weren’t active before pregnancy? Don’t let that put you off. Gabriel says pregnancy is a great time to start exercising, despite popular opinion.
Pregnancy is the time when women change their lives. There’s some advice around saying pregnant women shouldn’t start an exercise routine, but they should start exercising if they haven’t before, provided there’s no medical reason not to.”
What to wear for your workouts
Just because you’re UTD (up the duff) doesn’t mean you need to be relegated to daggy trackies while you’re doing triangle pose. Here are a couple of fitness wardrobe essentials that are practical as well as stylish.
Feel like you hardly recognise those lovely lady lumps you’ve been carrying around your whole adult life so far? In pregnancy, boobs change, grow — and get sore! So a supportive bra while you work out is a must. Find a wire-free style that offers a high level of control. (Hot pink piping optional but cute!)
Stretching ligaments, dodgy balance and swollen feet are all common side effects of pregnancy — so stay stable and supported with good quality workout shoes.
If you’re not keen on stretching your regular Lorna Janes beyond recognition, try a pair of pregnancy yoga pants — the fold-down top is versatile and comfy after delivery as well.
Anything long enough to cover your bump and stretchy enough to move in is a goer. A maternity style isn’t essential but it should last you a few months longer than standard sizing.
How fit (or not) were you before you fell pregnant?
And how do you stay fit during pregnancy?
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