Going to the gym was most likely quite straightforward prior to pregnancy, the biggest question being "Do I go to the gym today or not?" With pregnancy, it may feel like an area of uncertainty relating to the types of exercises and classes that are safe to continue doing.
In this post, I cover the main questions about prenatal exercise which have come up from our PT clients and members at FFS. In future posts, I’ll give more details about exercising during pregnancy, in particular, what exercises we recommend and what exercises are best avoided.
The Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
At FFS we’ve worked with many prenatal clients in classes and through personal training. We fully recommend a moderate level of exercise once you have been cleared by your doctor.
The benefits of exercise during pregnancy include:
Control of weight gainReduced risk of high blood pressure problems (e.g. hypertension and pre-eclampsia)Reduced risk of gestational diabetesImproved/maintained level of fitnessBetter mood & better sleepBetter physical preparation for childbirthQuicker recovery postpartum
While many women can feel cautious regarding exercise during pregnancy, it's important to remember that research has shown that there to be no adverse outcomes for mother or baby.
Your Questions Answered
The main questions our members and clients have had are covered in the following areas:
Can I lift weights?
Resistance training is safe provided you follow a few dos and don’ts in terms of specific exercises during your second and third trimester. Taking this into account, there is still a wide range of suitable exercises. Upper back strength can reduce low back pain and improved strength in the muscles around the hip joint can aid childbirth. Additionally, a focus on core and pelvic floor strength helps with quicker recovery postpartum, irrespective of the type of delivery.
The main guidelines for nutrition still apply during pregnancy – eat real food (i.e. minimally or not processed) and consistently make better choices. Eating 3-4 meals plus 2-3 snacks will account for the 300-500 additional calories your body needs each day to support caloric demands during development. Eating slowly and to 80% rather than stuffed means you’ll give yourself and your baby enough nutrients without overeating and risking excess weight gain.
Amount & Intensity
150 minutes of moderate exercise spread throughout the week is recommended. For women who have not been active prior to pregnancy, steadily building up from 5-10 minutes at a time is a safe way to progress. Usually, when we do a tough session, we reach at least 8/10 in terms of intensity. During pregnancy, it’s recommended that we bring this down to 6/10. A great tool is the talk test, i.e. can you hold a conversation while exercising. If the answer is no, it’s likely that you’ve exceeded the 6/10 mark. Note that it’s important to stay hydrated and not exercise for more than 1 hour, particularly during summer months.
A shift in mindset around exercise is often the key to consistently reducing intensity and enjoying exercise. Active women often train for a specific goal rather than exercise which means working towards improving a time, load lifted or preparing for a road race for example. During pregnancy, we focus on exercise for the health of mother and baby rather than training for performance. As well as the benefits listed above, this allows for improvement in posture and alignment, core and pelvic floor strength as well as healthy aerobic function.
Be Your Own Coach
Listen to your body and do the amount of movement or exercise that you’re able for on that day. You may not feel able for an exercise or workout that felt great the previous week. Do the amount and type that feels good each day. This might mean changing exercises as your pregnancy progresses, reducing the number of sets/reps of one or more exercises, just performing a warm-up and stretching, or going for a short walk instead of a planned class. Additionally, balance and joint stability can both feel different as your pregnancy progresses. The more you stay conscious of how your body feels day to day, the more you’ll be able to enjoy exercise pre and postpartum.
Want to find out more?
Contact Coach Aoife
If you are interested in 1:1 Personal Training or lunchtime/evening Small Group Training suited to pregnancy email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or get her on Instagram @aoifemacneill
Prenatal Small Group TrainingThe next lunch time group starts on February 25th. The first evening group starts on March 20th. Email email@example.com for more information.
You can download a PDF version of this guide
For more information regarding exercise during pregnancy:
Article by the American College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. Infographic by UK Chief Medical Officers
About the Author
Aoife has been a coach at FFS Gyms since October 2016. She is passionate about pre and postnatal exercise, an Olympic Weightlifter with International experience and currently undertaking an MSc in Strength and Conditioning.
Email Aoife at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find Aoife on Instagram at @aoifemacneill