Prenatal Fitness

Gentle exercise will up your energy level and help decrease labour pain

Prenatal Fitness


Staying fit and active during pregnancy is essential for women. “The benefits of working out during pregnancy are vast – from increased energy to decreased pain in labour,” says fitness expert Patricia Ryan.

While not the time to begin a strenuous exercise regime, pregnancy is a fantastic time to introduce gentle exercise or to continue an already established routine with modifications, after consulting with your physician.

To ensure optimal benefits while working out during pregnancy, follow these simple steps:

1.Take it slow
It is important to start any fitness regime slowly and receive good instruction. Attending a pre-natal fitness class is a great way to ensure that you are executing moves that take into account your growing belly and changing body. Another “at-home” option is a pre-natal DVD that includes modifications or alternate exercises.

Yoga is particularly popular because it is reasonably gentle on the body while providing strengthening and breathing techniques. “Pregnancy is the perfect time to begin yoga, as it enables pregnant women to be stronger, more flexible and in tune with the needs of their ever-changing bodies,” says yoga teacher Kelly McDowell. “It also prepares the body and mind for childbirth through breathing and stretching exercises.”

Walking is another fabulous form of pre-natal exercise, particularly in the last few months of pregnancy. “Walking allows you to go at your own pace and can be done anywhere and anytime,” says Patricia Ryan. “It also has been known to help induce labour, another benefit!”

2. Adjust intense workouts
If your pre-pregnancy workouts were very intense, it may be necessary to scale back or change your routine altogether. Consult with your doctor and a fitness expert.

Here are some simple ways to adjust your routine. Consider turning your morning run into a “slog” (slow jog). Instead of a bootcamp style workout, which often requires plenty of high intensity jumping and running, continue an at-home routine of squatting, lunging and dips at a slower pace. Make adjustments to your routine as often as needed.

Cynthia Mercer, a mother of two, got help from a fitness expert to adjust her routine. “After finding out I was pregnant, I consulted a personal trainer at my gym who specializes in training pregnant women. She gave me a routine that I could use throughout my pregnancy.”

3. Don’t focus on weight
According to doctors, it is normal for a woman to gain 25 to 35 pounds in pregnancy. Such weight gain is vital to a baby’s development. Therefore, pregnancy is not the time to try to lose weight or worry about weight gain. The goal is to maintain your level of fitness and to reap the other benefits of exercise during pregnancy. 

Exercise can:
•    keep joints loose and build stronger muscles (which can ease labour & delivery)
•    help relieve backaches
•    improve breathing (help control pain during delivery)
•    improve sleep
•    reduce stress and anxiety
•    reduce constipation (a common complaint during pregnancy)
•    help you regain your pre-pregnancy body more quickly

It does all this while releasing endorphins (naturally occurring chemicals in your brain) to keep you feeling energized and positive. You’ll feel and look better!

4. Listen to your body
“Being in tune with your body is never more important than when you are pregnant,” says Ryan. This is particularly true when it comes to exercise – even if that exercise has been pre-approved by a doctor or fitness instructor. Cynthia Mercer is a case in point. “When I experienced hip pain at eight months, I stopped working out completely.”

Ryan’s rule: “If you feel any pain, dizziness, or discomfort, STOP. Always consult with a doctor or midwife if you feel even slightly ‘off’.” Other warning signs include: shortness of breath, feeling faint, vaginal bleeding, difficulty walking, back or pelvic pain, and contractions.

Enjoy your growing body

Exercise during pregnancy is a great way to get in tune with your body and its changing needs, keep your energy high, alleviate some pregnancy symptoms, and prepare for childbirth. Enjoy this special time in your life!

Author: Sarah Newcomb

Sarah Newcomb is a freelance writer and teacher who lives with her husband and son in Durham Region.

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