Is your pregnancy exercise plan missing something?
Now you’re past the halfway point of your pregnancy, it’s a good time to review your fitness levels.
At this stage you may already have put an effective pregnancy fitness plan into action – in which case, great!
Or, it may be that you haven’t really been doing any form of regular exercise.
If the latter applies to you, don’t worry: you’re not alone. The unpleasant symptoms of the first trimester (nausea, morning sickness, fatigue) can leave you feeling completely wiped out, meaning exercise is at the bottom of your list of priorities. These symptoms may have only just started to subside halfway through your second trimester, but now your energy levels should gradually be returning.
So, the good news is, it’s better to start an exercise routine later rather than not at all, and now the worst of the first trimester symptoms should be behind you, you could try giving an exercise plan a go.
Why is exercise important at this stage?
You may have already read about some of the serious conditions that can potentially cause problems for you and your baby, such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. These conditions are the most common in the second half of pregnancy, and it’s best to take preventative measures as early as possible. It must be noted that while regular exercise won’t guarantee you’ll avoid such conditions, there is evidence to show it helps.
In a study by the Royal College of Midwives, the conclusion states that certain complications including pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and low baby birthweight could be improved when the woman took regular physical exercise. Therefore, as the study suggests, “women who exercised prior to pregnancy should be encouraged to continue, while those inactive could be motivated to start”.
So, if you’re still in need of some enthusiasm, remember that exercise in pregnancy doesn’t have to be too challenging to be beneficial, and your body will thank you for keeping it active later on when you go into labour.
Here are some great choices for low impact exercises you can look into today:
How much exercise should I be doing?
Here is a brief guide on what is a good amount of exercise for your skill level. Bear in mind that these are just guidelines. Every woman will have different factors affecting how much she can comfortably undertake, so it’s important that you know your own body and its limitations and discuss any new routine with your doctor or midwife.
No exercise – If you’ve been more or less sedentary to this point in your pregnancy, you try just 15-minute exercise sessions three or four times a week. When you feel comfortable, try building up to 20 minutes, and then eventually aim for half-hour sessions.
Light Exercise – If you’ve already got yourself into a light routine, you haven’t encountered any issues, and both you and your doctor are happy, then now might be the time to gradually increase the amount you exercise. If you’re already managing half-hour sessions, then you may want to keep them at this duration, or, if you feel like the sessions are becoming too easy, you could try a slight increase of five minutes and see how you do. Remember that an increase in duration does not also mean an increase in intensity. You should continue at the same comfortable pace, except do it for longer. If you ever start to feel out of breath, stop.
Fitness fanatics – If you were very active before pregnancy and have continued to be active to this point, then there’s usually little reason why you can’t continue, but if your choice of exercise poses a high risk of falling, such as running or cycling (we hope you haven’t been rock climbing!), you must lower the intensity. You will also need to discuss with your doctor about whether it’s suitable to continue your preferred choice of exercise while pregnant.
Perhaps you’ve had to take a break from your rigorous routine because of the common first trimester symptoms. If this is the case and you’re now getting ready to kick-start your regime again, remember to slowly ease yourself into it. Save any personal record-breaking attempts until after the post-partum period when your body has made a full recovery from child-birth.
Making exercise easy
Even with a solid routine in place, sticking to your exercise plan isn’t always easy. During pregnancy, you will be faced with many other commitments and priorities, which could mean you end up giving your 30-minute walk around the park a miss.
But incorporating exercise into your daily routine can be a lot easier than you might think. By just making a few simple choices, you can give your body an effective workout without disrupting your busy schedule. Here are some ideas you can put into practice right now.
- If you travel by bus on a daily basis, try getting off one stop earlier and walking the rest of the way to your destination.
- If you usually take the lift to get to your office, try taking the stairs instead (as long as it’s not too far and don’t push yourself too hard).
- Be an early bird. If you don’t feel too tired, try waking up half an hour earlier to fit in a short session. Provided that you heed all safety precautions, you could try working out to an antenatal fitness DVD or take a walk outside (make sure someone knows what you’re doing and where you’re going, as you will need an emergency contact).
- Fit in key stretches wherever and whenever you can. Most of them, such as neck stretches and shoulder circles, are simple to do, meaning you can do them almost anywhere – for example, when waiting in a queue or when sat at your desk.
- Make sure you keep up your pelvic floor exercises. After a bit of practice, they should become very easy to do, so make sure you do sets of them throughout the day.
One key safety tip: because some of these simple activities can seem so mundane and because they fit seamlessly into your everyday schedule. it can be easy to forget that doing them is a form of exercise. Nevertheless, you need to take all the usual precautions, which means you need to always have a bottle of water easily accessible to you and be prepared to stop immediately, and get help, if you feel pain or faint.