Health & Fitness

Staying Active – My Key to an Easier Pregnancy

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As an active person before my first pregnancy, I made it a goal of mine to, despite all odds, stay as active as possible throughout my pregnancy. I believe this helps prepare you both physically and mentality for labour, delivery, and those first few months of motherhood. If you were sedentary before you became pregnant, it’s important to review your exercise plan with your healthcare provider before you begin.

Activities such as swimming, walking, yoga and Pilates, and low-impact aerobics are good choices. Pregnancy is not the right time to start any new intensive exercise, but it is safe to continue with most types of exercise if you’re used to them. While you’re pregnant, the hormone relaxin gets to work, softening up the tough, flexible tissues (ligaments) that connect your bones. Relaxin loosens up your pelvic joints, ready for your baby’s journey into the world. Even if you’re normally quite supple, the effect of this hormone is to make you more prone to sprains and other injuries. That’s why it’s important to pick the right activity.

If you’re committed to keeping fit, do so on a regular basis. It’s best to exercise at least three times a week, for at least 30 minutes at a time. Make sure you have a couple of rest days during the week.

Try to achieve a balance: exercising five times a week is probably too extreme; on the other hand, working out only occasionally may make you more prone to injury. And you won’t benefit from exercise by doing it only once in a while.

Wear layers of light clothes that are easy to peel off when you need to. It’s important to make sure you don’t overheat while you exercise, especially in the first trimester. Research can’t be sure that this will harm your baby when you overheat, but it’s best to be cautious.

Safety tips during exercise:

Warm up before exercising – warm up your muscles and joints ready for activity and help build your heart-rate slowly. If you skip the warm-up and jump around before your body is ready, you may injure yourself

Keep moving – standing still for long stretches can decrease blood flow to your uterus (womb) and cause blood to pool in your legs. This can make you dizzy. Some yoga and dance positions involve being still. So if you feel uncomfortable, change position, or walk on the spot.

Don’t exercise lying flat on your back after the first trimester – besides being uncomfortable, this position may cause dizziness. Prop yourself up on your elbows instead, or lie on your left side.

Take care with awkward positions – exercises like sit-ups, standing on one leg and separating your legs widely may cause ligament strain and pain in and around your pelvis

Drink lots of water – this is a good way to help get important nutrients to your baby

Cool down – walk on the spot for a few minutes or stretch. It gives your heart a chance to return gradually to its normal rate.

Shal Paper is the former British Body Fitness Champion and has competed at the highest level in professional body fitness

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