I get asked a lot about the 'do's and don'ts' of exercise through conception and pregnancy. And quite honestly my answer to every question is usually 'it depends'.
Each person has a unique starting point with regards to exercise and also a different tolerance, understanding and knowledge of movement. Therefore - my answer will always be based around the context in which and by whom it is asked.
So instead of a list of what to do and what not to do through pregnancy, here's my answers to 3 most frequently asked questions.
1. I don't typically follow an exercise routine - can I start while pregnant?
Yes - you can start exercising while pregnant. Your body is currently undergoing some of the biggest physical and hormonal changes that you may experience for a long time. You should be actively engaging in activities to support these changes - promote blood flow, support recovery, gain strength and stamina.
To what extent or what type of exercise? That's where the 'it depends' comes in.
Typically, I recommend a balance of cardiovascular and strength training exercise during pregnancy. General health guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of low - moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise during pregnancy. This may equate to walking, swimming, bike riding or jogging.
While there are no formal guidelines for strength training - there are so many benefits to implementing this into your workout schedule (see Q2). P.S. - babies are not light, and you'll be picking them up for many years to come - get strong enough to do that!
Working alongside a coach who can help you learn at a slow, comfortable pace teaching you the benefit of mind muscle connection, a diverse range of breathing and pelvic floor techniques and helping you accommodate strength work in your day to day is key.
2. What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
SO MANY! Again - each person will have their own unique experience and these may not be true for everyone but these are commonly observed benefits:
Decreased stress. Those who exercise in pregnancy tend to have lower rates of postpartum depression. Why? Exercise boosts serotonin - this helps regulate mood, appetite and energy. Exercise increases endorphins - the feel good hormone. Ultimately this means that you sleep better, have more energy through the day and just generally have a more positive outlook.
Lower risk of gestational diabetes. Movement requires energy - this typically comes from glucose. Utilization of this glucose during exercise reduces insulin sensitivity.
Less low back pain through pregnancy - this could be attributed to stronger muscles supporting the growing belly and also the increase in blood flow which helps promote recovery.
Easier delivery - talk about participating in a marathon. You wouldn't run 42km without training. Would you?
3. I'm already active - can I just keep doing what I'm doing through pregnancy?
Maybe? What are you doing? The answer is most likely yes, with some considerations. The only thing I would strongly advise against is contact sports. Here are some ways I might adapt workouts for clients:
Move in ways that feel good to you and modify when it doesn’t.
Recognize that exercise through pregnancy is more about reaping the benefits above versus setting a new personal best and therefore it’s ok to change/ modify and scale back your workouts.
If your 'all or nothing' 'go hard or go home' mindset is holding you back from nurturing and enjoying movement during this time, let me know - let's chat about that. You're not alone.
Learn to breathe through movement. Very often in the gym, I see people holding their breath while exercising. Pick weights that don’t require an excessive level of breath holding. Inhale through the easiest part of the exercise and exhale with exertion.
Spend time breathing and learning about pelvic floor connection. Learn to both relax and contract your pelvic floor. Connect with your body - know what's normal FOR YOU.
Hopefully this answered some of your questions! And if it gave you even more questions - I'd love to hear them. Leave a comment, send me a DM, let's chat.
Want to get started through pregnancy but not sure how/ where to start? Let me help with that.
- Coach Lisa