Expert advice from UFIT: Can I exercise while I’m pregnant?

Can I exercise while I'm pregnant HERO
You aren’t going to see your toes for a while, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still exercise sensibly while growing a human…

Growing a human being inside of you is hard work. It is also one of the few times in your life that eating that second helping of bee hoon seems like a great idea… until you step on the scales. We say eat the bee hoon, but also stay active and fit during your time as a real-life incubator.

We already asked a midwife about exercising during pregnancy, and now we’ve been talking to women’s health physiotherapist, Kelly McGinnity from UFIT, who is part of the UFIT Pre-natal Program. We asked her the nitty gritty questions on why exercise is important during pregnancy, how to keep fit sensibly and what the research suggests when it comes to busting some moves with your bump…

Kelly, there is a ton of conflicting advice out there when it comes to exercising during pregnancy. Why so much confusion? Who should we believe?
There are a LOT of opinions out there, but it’s important to separate the myths from the facts. Aunty on the MRT insisting you have to sit down for nine months is not the person to be seeking advice from.

Cultural beliefs all play a big part in the mixed messages too, and advice can differ even between obstetricians. A friend of mine was advised by her doctor to stop carrying shopping bags and go on complete rest to prepare for labour – four months before her due date! This is just not necessary.

The fact is that it’s important to keep in mind that every woman is different and every pregnancy is different, and while some women genuinely may not be able to exercise during pregnancy for various reasons, ladies who exercised before they lost sight of their toes can probably, and should, continue to do so.

But what does the official research recommend?
This is well chartered territory, and piles of research has been done over the past 20 years looking at risks of exercising during pregnancy, and at what kind of exercise is appropriate while pregnant. Experts are in agreement that:

  • If your pregnancy is uncomplicated and you exercised at a high intensity pre-pregnancy, then continuation of high intensity exercise is safe.
  • Women who led a sedentary lifestyle before falling pregnant can start exercising during their pregnancy. Just be sensible! Don’t go out and run a marathon if you haven’t even run for a bus for five years
  • There are huge benefits to exercising when preggers, including improved sleep quality, improved fitness, reduced swelling in feet and legs. Oh, and it makes you feel good!
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend the following guidelines for exercise during an uncomplicated pregnancy:
    • Duration: 30 mins of exercise, most days of the week.
    • Intensity: Pregnant women should to be able to hold a conversation whilst exercising. If shortness of breath prevents this from being possible, then the exercise is too intense. Slow it down!

Are there reasons for not exercising during pregnancy?
If you have any complications in your pregnancy, it is advisable that you DO NOT exercise  until you have sought guidance from your obstetrician. Such complications could include:

  • Risk of pre-term labour
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Placenta Previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy
  • An incompetent cervix
  • Severe anaemia

Are there certain exercises we should avoid while pregnant?
There are definitely certain exercises you do need to avoid so as to reduce risk of injury to yourself and bubba. These include:

  • Contact sports or sports that involve high frequency stopping, starting and changing direction.
  • Exercising in extreme heat (or cold).
  • No lying flat on your back past 16 weeks
  • Exercises that focus on the obliques and six-pack muscles (rectus abdominis)
  • Any exercise that causes pain.
  • Exercises that require you to hold your breath.

In the last trimester, the following exercises should also be avoided to prevent excess pressure on the pelvic floor muscles:

  • Heavy weights
  • High impact or jerky movements

The days of wrapping pregnant women in cotton wool are, thankfully, over. So, if you’re a mum-to-be and interested in finding out more about staying fit, healthy and happy during your pregnancy, then do come along to the UFIT Pre-natal Program. We have a team of physios, psychologists, nutritionists and doctors on hand to answer all your burning pregnancy questions, and will keep you up to date at all times on the do’s and don’ts of this very special time in your life.

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