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Exercises during pregnancy

Exercises during pregnancy

Why should I exercise in pregnancy?



There are lots of good reasons to keep active when you're pregnant. Exercise improves your muscle tone, strength and endurance, which may make it easier for you to adapt to the changes that pregnancy brings.



Regular exercise will:




  • Help you to carry the weight you gain in pregnancy.

  • Prepare you for the physical challenge of labour and birth.

  • Improve your mood, and give you energy.

  • Help you to sleep better.

  • Make getting back into shape after your baby is born easier.

  • Give you the chance to meet other mums-to-be, if you opt for a class.



Which exercises are best in pregnancy?



The ideal exercise in pregnancy will get your heart pumping and keep you supple, without causing physical stress. Many activities, such as running and weight training, are fine in the beginning, but you may need to modify your workout as you grow bigger.



You'll really feel the benefit if you do a combination of:



-Aerobic exercise, which works your heart and lungs.



-Muscle-strengthening exercise, which improves your strength, flexibility and posture.



To get the full benefits, you'll need to exercise at least three times a week, ideally more. Try to find something that you enjoy, as you'll be more likely to stick to it in the longer term.



Avoid doing sports where there's a risk of hitting your bump, or of slipping and falling, such as squash, gymnastics, rollerblading, horse riding and skiing.



The following types of exercise are safe in pregnancy, though some may not be suitable for the last few months, and you may need to lessen the activity as your pregnancy progresses. Talk to your doctor, midwife or a physiotherapist before starting any exercise that's new to you.



Walking



Brisk walking keeps you fit without jarring your knees and ankles, and gives your heart a workout. It is safe throughout pregnancy, and can be built into your daily routine. Aim to walk for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. So walk to the shops rather than drive, take the bus only part of the way, or do a brisk few laps of the park or pavements in your lunch hour.



Swimming



Swimming is an ideal, and safe, form of exercise in pregnancy. It exercises your arms and legs, and works your heart and lungs. The bigger your bump gets, the more you’ll enjoy feeling weightless in the water.



If you enjoy group activity, you could join an aquanatal class or aqua aerobics class. Exercising while standing in water is gentle on your joints and supports your bump. It can help to ease back pain and swelling in your legs in late pregnancy.



Yoga



Pregnancy yoga helps to maintain muscle tone and flexibility and improve your posture. It’s kinder to your joints than more vigorous types of exercise. However, you should also do some aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, a few times a week, to give your heart a workout.



Stretching helps to keep you supple, though don't overdo it. Think about gently opening and extending your body, rather than pushing yourself. Your yoga teacher will show you how to relax your body and mind.



Make sure that your yoga teacher is experienced in providing advice for pregnant women. It’s best to go along to a pregnancy yoga class, rather than start with a DVD. The exercises you learn may help you with relaxation and breathing in labour, too.



Pilates



Pilates exercises strengthen your tummy and pelvic floor muscles, a part of your body known as the stable core.



Your pilates teacher will guide you on your posture, making you aware of how you hold your body. She’ll take you through a series of positions and movements that will strengthen your core muscles. You’ll learn how to time your breathing with the exercises, and how to relax.



Pilates targets the muscles that can weaken during pregnancy, in a way that supports, rather than strains, them. Choose an antenatal pilates class, if there's one in your area.



Weight training



If weight training is already part of your exercise routine, there’s no reason to stop now that you're pregnant. As long as you're careful, using light weights will tone and strengthen your muscles.



Don’t work so hard so that you overheat, and gradually wind down your regime towards the end of your pregnancy.



Pelvic floor exercises



Last, but definitely not least, exercise your pelvic floor! If you have weak pelvic floor muscles, you may leak small amounts of wee when you exercise, cough or sneeze (stress incontinence). You can prevent this from happening by doing pelvic floor exercises every day.


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