Regular physical activity throughout life has numerous benefits. Exercise particularly in pregnant women has been shown to reduce risk of excessive gestational weight gain and conditions such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. As much as exercise has numerous benefits, due to the physiological and anatomical changes throughout pregnancy it is important to consult with your obstetric care provider to ensure that you are suitable to continue or commence exercise. Exercise is not advised in some conditions and therefore it is important to be thoroughly screened to ensure that you are safe to continue.
In uncomplicated pregnancy it is usually safe to initiate the following forms of exercise:
In regards to running, jogging, strength training and playing racquet sports, it has been generally deemed safe in uncomplicated pregnancies if you have already been participating in these activities. It has been recommended that if you are completing in a racquet sport, or any activities where risk of falls is indicated, that you avoid this as much as possible. It is also recommended that after 16 weeks of pregnancy exercises on your back are avoided.
How often and how intense?
It is recommended that an eventual goal of moderate-intensity exercise for at least 20-30 minutes a day, on most if not all days of the week. However for someone previously sedentary, this may commence at 1-2 times a week and slowly build there. It is advised that by third trimester no more than three sessions of vigorous exercise are recommended. In regards to how intense exercise should be, you should be able to complete the talk test. If you are able to carry on a conversation while exercising you are likely working at acceptable level. If you cannot hold a conversation you are likely working too hard. Other things to keep in mind is avoid overheating (by exercising too hard and in hot conditions), keep fluids up and wear comfortable loose clothing.
If, whilst exercising, you experience any of the following symptoms during or after exercise, you should cease exercising and contact your physician: High heart rate, dizziness, headache, chest pain, uterine contractions, vaginal bleeding, amniotic fluid leakage, nausea, shortness of breath, faintness, back or pelvic pain, decreased foetal movements, sudden swelling of ankles, hands and face.
If you are pregnant and have any concerns about continuing exercise or would like advice regarding a safe exercise program contact your obstetric care provider and physiotherapist.