Exercise in pregnancy
exercise; physical; activity; exercising; intensity;
Being pregnant for 40 or so weeks is a physical challenge! The fitter you are to begin with, the better - but it is never too late to start.
Being fit will help make your pregnancy much more enjoyable, assist you during labour, and help you cope better with the demands of a young baby.
However, it is best to talk to your doctor or midwife at the beginning of your pregnancy to discuss what exercise is suitable for you.
There are two other topics that you might find interesting as they will help you care for your body too:
You can also find information about exercising on the Pregnancy, birth and baby website
What type of exercise is suitable during pregnancy?
The basic rule is to listen to your body and don't overdo it.
- Women are encouraged to maintain a healthy level of fitness rather than striving for peak fitness. This may include aerobic, strength and stretching exercise.
- For most women, 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise most days is encouraged. You should be able to hold a conversation easily whilst exercising.
- If you have not regularly exercised before pregnancy, gradually increase activity by adding five minutes to your exercise program per week, until you reach 30 minutes per day.
- Safe exercise options that combine aerobic and strengthening include walking, swimming, yoga, pilates and/or specific antenatal exercise classes.
- If using weights or resistance equipment for strengthening, avoid weights causing you to strain or hold your breath. Choose a lighter resistance than normal.
- Avoid activities with high risk of abdominal trauma/ physical contact, especially after the first trimester e.g. horse-riding, mountain bike riding, skiing.
- Choose well ventilated areas when exercising to avoid overheating. Ensure adequate hydration. A thorough warm up and cool down is essential before aerobic or strength exercise.
- Stop and seek medical advice if you experience vaginal loss, excessive shortness of breath (prior to/ during exercise), dizziness, headache, or pain while exercising.
Gently developing your core muscle strength will help your body manage the changes of pregnancy and some of the discomforts such as backache, joint strain and pelvic loosening. Feeling stronger in your body will help you feel good in yourself.
- If you have been exercising prior to pregnancy you may need to change the way you do some things.
- It is not a good idea to take up strenuous sports such as outdoor cycling, tennis or jogging, especially if you have never done them before. If you have been involved in these types of activities before you were pregnant, have a chat to your doctor or midwife about how long and how vigorously you should continue with these sports.
For more information on exercise and pregnancy have a look at the detailed information on 'Exercise in Pregnancy' (pdf) on the Sports Medicine Australia website http://sma.org.au/.
How to make physical activity part of your daily life
The recent guidelines from the Active Australia Campaign offer helpful ways to make physical activity a part of your daily life.
Think of movement as an opportunity not an inconvenience
Modern technology has reduced the need for even small amounts of physical activity in our daily lives. Yet the human body was designed to move. As we become less active, we become more overweight and experience more health problems. Start thinking of any type of movement as a way you can improve your health.
Be active every day in as many ways as you can
- Being active in small ways is likely to provide health advantages to almost everyone - whatever their age, body weight, health condition or disability.
- Put together at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days (the more days the better).
- Moderate intensity activity includes things such as a brisk walk or medium paced swimming. Use the 'Talk test' - you should be able to have a conversation while you are exercising.
- Combine short sessions of different activities of around 10 to 15 minutes each to a total of 30 minutes or more. You don't need to do all 30 minutes in one go.
- If you have checked with your doctor or obstetrician, you may also be able to enjoy some regular, vigorous exercise for extra health and fitness.
Your doctor, midwife or a physiotherapist can provide you with more information about exercising during pregnancy.
For more information about the health benefits of being active have a look at the Healthy and Active Australia website.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see your doctor or midwife.