Aerobic workouts in your first trimester
You’re nearing the end of your first trimester (in many ways the first major milestone) and the reality may finally be starting to hit that you’re going to be bringing another human into the world. You no doubt have many things going through your mind, but unless you’ve previously been regularly active before, taking up a new exercise may not be at the top of your list of immediate considerations.
But regular exercise can have many benefits for pregnant women and aerobics classes are a great form of exercise commonly recommended for soon-to-be-mums.
What will I do in an aerobics class?
The word aerobic simply means “with oxygen”. Aerobic exercise can involve any cardiovascular activity that is long in duration and elevates your heart rate (to strengthen your heart and lungs). This means walking, running, swimming, and cycling are classed as aerobic exercise.
However, if you prefer a more social environment where you can feel the support of other pregnant mothers, an antenatal aerobics class may be for you.
In a low impact aerobics class, your group will follow an instructor as he or she performs a series of movements that will work your major muscle groups and get your heart rate pumping.
The classes are sometimes set to music, so if you love music and like the idea of working out to a rhythm, but perhaps don’t want to get involved in a dance class, then aerobics classes can be a great alternative.
Aerobics classes – the benefits
Attending an aerobics class regularly throughout your pregnancy will help ensure a few things. Firstly, as the name suggests, it will help keep your lungs and heart healthy. The exercise will also work your muscles, including your deep abdominal muscles, toning and strengthening them so that you will be well-prepped for labour. There is also evidence to suggest that regular exercise can help soon-to-be-mothers get a much better night’s sleep.
The benefits of aerobic classes are not just exclusive to pregnant women. Anyone’s fitness can be greatly improved by attending. So why not take a friend along for moral support. And if you enjoy them, it will be really beneficial to keep up your aerobic training after you’ve given birth (if you can find the time between having your hands full with your new baby).
Making sure you stay safe
Aerobics is relatively risk-free, but it’s important that you check with your doctor or midwife beforehand, as you don’t want to risk the possibility of damaging yourself or your baby. Always tell your instructor about your pregnancy before the class starts and make sure you understand which of the exercises may be harmful to you – ask for alternative movements which are lower impact or, better still, make sure you are enrolled on an antenatal aerobics course.
If you’ve never undertaken an aerobics class before, your doctor or midwife may recommend that you take up a form of exercise that is lower intensity and holds less risks for expectant mothers, such as swimming, walking, or, if you like the idea of trying aerobics, aqua-aerobics; this is aerobics done in the water, which provides you with a lot of support and allows you to experience a feeling of weightlessness – sure to be welcome when you hit the later stages of your pregnancy.
It is highly recommended, even if you’re a seasoned aerobics attendee, to join a class tailored specifically for pregnant women. Some of the movements done in high impact classes, especially the kickboxing and gymnastic varieties, are simply not suitable for you and your developing baby.
For instance, jumping and jogging on the spot can put a lot of pressure on your joints and ligaments, which are already being loosened because your body is preparing itself for labour. Also, as you’re at the end of your first trimester, very soon you will start to visibly gain weight at the front (although you may not have noticed it yet), which will mean your centre of gravity will shift, making it easier for you to lose your balance and you won’t feel as light on your feet.
That’s why, when it comes to staying safe in aerobics, a good key point is to always keep one foot on the ground. Moves such as running and jumping should therefore be substituted for marching. Modifications should also be made to any move that gets you to suddenly change direction as these, too, make you more susceptible to injury. Similarly, a move that gets you to twist your abdomen is not a good idea.
You will also need a warm up period at the start of each session as well as a cool down at the end to further prevent damage to your muscles. Of course, if you attend a class that has been designed for pregnant women, your instructor will make sure all these modifications are made and no one is pushed too far.
The lack of an instructor’s support is also why workout DVDs should be approached with caution. During pregnancy, working out under supervision is always preferable to working out alone.
Your aerobics class checklist
To make sure you stay comfortable throughout your whole workout, you will need to make sure of a few things:
- You have a water bottle to hand – When you’re pregnant, you need to be extra wary of the danger of overheating and dehydration, as these can cause major problems for the growing foetus. Don’t attempt any exercise without having your water bottle near you. There should also be in a convenient place for you to refill when needed.
- Wear the right gear – Again, because of overheating, you should be wearing thin layers of appropriate exercise clothing.
- Stay in touch with your body – Don’t try anything you feel will be too dangerous or put you at risk of falling. Take things at your own comfortable pace instead of trying to keep up with others around you (remember that you shouldn’t be trying to push yourself during pregnancy). If you feel your muscles and joints starting to ache, don’t be afraid to take some time out. The instructor should understand perfectly well and expect this to happen. You can then join in again whenever you feel ready.
Following this advice, you will hopefully be able to stay safe and have fun while exercising and you will be happy you kept active later on.