Exercise During Pregnancy: Benefits & Guidelines
WITH LENNY ROSE ACTIVE FOUNDER, PHYSIO, PREGNANCY FITNESS AND WELLNESS EXPERT, AND MUM-OF-4, ROSIE DUMBRELL.
Exercise in Pregnancy is something I could bang on about for hours. Days. Weeks, in fact. For the uncomplicated pregnancy, I believe moving your body every day in some way, is crucial to your physical and mental health, both in feeling good NOW, and later, post-baby too.
THE RESEARCH ON WHY PREGNANCY EXERCISE IS IMPORTANT
The research says that being physically active in pregnancy helps to improve health markers (i.e. cardiovascular health, blood pressure and hypertension risk, diabetes and more). It also helps to Improve strength, flexibility, reduce pain, reduce back pain, reduce fear and anxiety around exercise in pregnancy, and is super helpful in preparing for labour.
It’s important to follow the right kind of information, as let’s face it, there is an overwhelm of information out there – it’s filtering and deciphering it that is the hardest part.
In Dr. James Clapp and Catherine Cram's book “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy”, they site over 20 years worth of research and literature review on the benefits on both mother and baby both in pregnancy and the first year of life after birth. They recommend that a woman who is physically active on 3 or more days a week to moderate intensity right up until delivery, have shorter, less complicated labours, gain less weight, have less body image issues, and recover more quickly from birth.
In addition, they site "Women who exercise regularly during pregnancy maintain positive attitudes about themselves, their pregnancies, and their upcoming labour and delivery." They also found that babies of exercising mothers do better on an IQ test at 12 months of age, and that the vibratory stimulus as well as mild stress stimulus that occurs with moderate bouts of exercise helps a baby to adapt more easily to life outside the womb. Waterland et al. (2016) found that exercising mothers have children who are more physically active as adults, so even better reason to move your bump.
SO WHAT ARE THE GLOBAL GUIDELINES FOR EXERCISING IN PREGNANCY?
The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommendation for Exercise in Pregnancy is 150 mins moderate intensity activity every week. You can find a comprehensive guide on the What and How of exercise in pregnancy by downloading our free EBOOK here.
Determining intensity based on HR isn’t accurate due to cardiovascular changes in pregnancy and huge variety of fitness levels and maximum heart rates, so we now use the BORG scale, a rate of perceived exertion scale, on which we recommend you aim for around 12-14/20 in terms of intensity.
"We need to be careful about judging pregnant women and their exercise choices – as it's really your pre pregnancy training, baseline level of training and fitness prior to pregnancy as well as mental health. There is no one ‘right’ level for everyone, it is a case by case situation." - Rosie Dumbrell
SO BASICALLY …
If you are not active, start gradually, but do start. If you are active, keep going. You've got this mama!
To kick off your active pregnancy journey, start by getting the basics right:
–Coordinating pelvic floor and breath
–Build up strength and confidence with movement
–Move in some way every day
–Bouts of as little as 10 minutes count
–Do something you enjoy
–Seek guidance from a health professional if you have pain, discomfort or any worries!
–It's easier than ever to exercise at home, with the advent of many great online and home exercise programs for pregnancy and postpartum. Make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter to be first to hear of our upcoming launch of RoseFit – a Physio guided holistic approach to pregnancy movement that is based on the latest research and over a decade of experience.
WHAT IF I HAVE PAIN?
A Meta–Analysis (Belogolovsky, 2015) found that exercise and pregnancy-related lumbar and pelvic girdle pain may benefit from a 10 week program of supervised progressive exercise core focused or yoga program. We know that physical activity reduces symptoms in pregnancy but most pregnant women are inactive. Those that are active often reduce activity around 28 weeks and continue to decrease activity towards the full term of pregnancy – BUT, the cessation of exercise is linked to increased quality of life, managing gestational weight gain, reducing physical symptoms of pregnancy including back pain and as we said before – exercising right up until delivery can reduce labour length and intensity by up to 1/3, as well as increase your confidence in your body to do the job. Amen to that.
Women’s health physios specialise in pregnancy and postpartum and are every pregnant woman’s angel – so make sure you see one for any aches, pains or concerns you have.
- Montoya et al. (2010). Aerobic Exercise Improves QOL
- Exercising Through Your Pregnancy. Clapp, J. and Cram, C. Addicus (2012). Nebraska.