Fitness and exercise are an important aspect of health. Many women feel that when they have conceived, they must “give up” this part of their life or that it is “too late” to get into shape. This is not the case at all, and while an exercise program must be tailored to the individual, overall women who exercise during pregnancy report a greater sense of health, a shorter labour, less pain during pregnancy, and less intervention during pregnancy and labour. There are safety precautions to be advised, and you should consult a professional trainer with experience in pregnancy.
Acute physiologic responses to exercise generally increase during gestation, however healthy women without contraindications (see below) are actually advised to exercise throughout the pregnancy. Most women can continue along with their normal routine with some modification to ensure the safety herself and her developing foetus. Do not increase the level of training or begin a new competitive sport, except in cases where the mother has not previously participated in general exercise. The program should begin at a level causing no pain, shortness of breath or excessive fatigue; it can then progress whilst avoiding significant discomfort.
By the second trimester, enlarged breasts, uterus and foetus, combined with lumbar lordosis (lower back “sway”) cause a women’s centre of gravity to shift. The foetus, having moved higher in the abdomen, is unprotected by the pelvis and thus more susceptible to contact. The hormone ‘relaxin’ circulates in the body, preparing the ligaments and joints for labour. This softens and increases the laxity of joins which can lead to soft tissue injury. Stretching is important however, only to about 80% of the exercising mother’s capacity. Ballistic movements should be avoided, and after 14 weeks, laying supine (facing upward) can be associated with an almost 10% decline in the volume of blood pumped by the heart due to obstruction of venous return.
Prolonged periods of standing, isometric exercises with valsalva manouvers (forcibly exhaling with closed airways), and exercise in the supine position may decrease splanchic blood flow and uterine perfusion.
As with any exercise regimen, exercising during gestation should be constructed upon the mother’s specific goals, physical condition and health status. Frequency should be at least three, and preferably all days of the week. A moderate intensity of 40-60% VO2 reserve, whereby the participant can maintain a conversation should be employed. The heart rate range for women 20-40years of age is 130-150beats per minute (keep the heart rate lower as age increases). The pregnant exerciser should aim for total of 150 minutes of exercise each week of dynamic, rhythmic physical activities that use the large muscle groups such as walking, swimming, yoga etc.
- Cardiac dysrhythmia
- Chronic bronchitis
- Extreme morbid obesity
- Extreme underweight
- Extremely sedentary lifestyle
- Intrauterine growth restriction
- Hypertension (not controlled)
- Hyperthyroidism (not controlled)
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Incompetent cervix
- Multiple gestation
- Persistent bleeding
- Placenta previa (>26 weeks)
- Ruptured membranes
- Preeclampsia/pregnancy induced hypertension
Suggested Cardio for second trimester mamas:
Lower impact cardio may relieve your aching muscles such as walking, biking, elliptical or pilates. Interval sessions on light cardio machines such as a stationary bike for 1 min reasonably hard and 30 sec slower recovery can work the heart while employing a safe technique. Trying a yoga class or swimming is also a great form of exercise.
Here are some suggested exercises for the second trimester:
On all fours with wrists directly under the shoulders and knees directly under the hips, the spine should be in a neutral alignment (please ask a professional to show you proper technique). You want to breathe in and FILL the diaphragm, pushing your belly out then breathe out and draw your stomach into your spine. This is basically how we breathe as babies and is fantastic for regulating the digestive system as well as meditative purposes.
4-Point Reverse Dead Bug
From the point on all fours, extend the arm and opposite leg (keep toes on the floor, just lift the knee) as you exhale. On the inhale return to all fours before repeating with the other arm and leg.
Wide Squat Position 1
Stand with the SB in between your lower back and the wall. Feet should be just wider than shoulder width and the feet should be turned out to 15-degree angle. Inhale and bend the knees making sure that the knees follow the same line as your feet. Exhale to straighten up. You should look like Position 2 now. This can be done with a DB or kettle bell held between the thighs to increase difficulty.
Wide Squat Position 2
Cross-body Fly Position 1
Start with feet hip width apart and a thera band under the sole of one foot. Extend that foot to the side, keeping all the weight on the opposite leg and the hips in a straight line. The opposite hand should grasp the thera band loosely and pull in a diagonal line from the thigh across the body until palm to toe is one straight line. You should look like Position 2 now. Return the arm across the body, ensuring that the shoulders stay back and even.
Cross-body Fly Position 2
Start by sitting in lotus position, feet touching, knees bent, sitting up tall through the spine. Lift one arm and exale as you reach toward the opposte side of the room, inhale to sit tall again. Repeat on both sides.
From the lotus position, extend one leg forward. With a tall spine and chest open walk your hands towards your flexed foot. Hold as far as you can stretch before repeating on the ther leg.
Kneel on the floor with toes touching and knees apart to accommodate a growing belly. Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Lengthen from the tailbone up to the finger tips.
These are exercise suggestions. Always consult a physician or health care provider before beginning any exercise routine.
Sares is a Fitness Consultant for TBS and works as a personal trainer and nutrition consultant at a fitness center in Australia.
Read more from Sares on her blog: www.breathemovenourish.