The do’s and do-not’s of exercising during pregnancy is a much discussed topic, and it can be hard to know what is and isn’t safe. Exercise has many benefits for both mother and baby, so we chatted to Laura Randall to find out how to keep fit and healthy during those 9 months.
Laura Randall is a Personal Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor and Nutritional Advisor, with a degree in Sports Science. Here at University of Birmingham Sport & Fitness, there are many class options that are suitable for those who are expecting. Exercise before, during and after pregnancy is encouraged – but there are some considerations to take in to account to ensure that the exercise is safe and effective.
Which classes do you recommend during pregnancy and what kind of adjustments might be required?
‘The good news is – with a few things to be aware of, most classes should be fine during pregnancy.’
Aqua Fit/Natal during pregnancy can provide the same workout for your heart and body as studio-based classes without the risks of falls or injuries. The buoyancy of the water requires only 50% of your body weight to be supported, alleviating stress on your joints and muscles whilst having fun during your workout. UoB Sport & Fitness offers exclusive aqua natal classes taught by expert instructors, which really help mums-to-be to stay active during pregnancy.
CX Worx and Abs classes should be safe in the first and second trimester. There are adjustments you should make when you can, for example, there are some great options to work your abs in 4-point kneeling positions, supporting yourself on your elbows in a supine position to keep the chest lifted, or by doing hover/plank when it is no longer comfortable to lie flat on your back.
I already work out – can I continue?
‘If you have already been doing Circuits, Tone, Body Attack, Body Step or Zumba Step it should be safe to continue whilst pregnant.’
We do suggest some of the following modifications:
- Take the low impact options to reduce excessive impact through your joints
- For Step, decrease the number of risers on your bench so you don’t have to step too high
- Ensure your foot is always planted firmly on the step so you have a stable base of support
In RPM and Cycle classes it’s good to modify intensity by taking regular breaks, reducing resistance, and avoiding excessive speeds and standing positions as you feel the need to.
What if I want to try something new?
‘Body Balance, Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates can be started for the first time during pregnancy and are ideal exercise for expectant mothers who want to keep active whilst making healthy lifestyle changes.’
Always let your instructor know that you are pregnant so they can offer the best options for you to feel comfortable and successful, but stop immediately if you feel dizzy, and don’t be too aggressive with your stretches. Remember pregnancy is not the time to push your body!
Weight training and Body Pump are great for maintaining muscle tone during pregnancy. With the options to use lighter weights, hand weights instead of the bar and reducing your range of motion, you can keep moving and feeling strong. When it is no longer comfortable to lie on your back during exercise, you can turn your bench into an Incline Bench. You may also find during the later stages of pregnancy that overhead exercises may cause dizziness or changes in blood pressure, and with this in mind there are plenty of options to stay below the shoulder line and still get the workout you came for.
Zumba, Sh’Bam and Body Jam are generally safe to do during pregnancy, but you may find that twisting and jumping are uncomfortable so just take it easy and listen to what your body is telling you.
What types of classes should I avoid during pregnancy?
‘Body Combat and Boxercise during pregnancy aren’t recommended because of the joint instability.’
The release of hormones such as Oestrogen and Relaxin can result in joints being less stable, so the kicks and excessive twisting may aggravate the back, hip and pelvis. GRIT and Sprint are both high-intensity workouts where fitness is taken to the next level by pushing yourself hard – pregnancy is not the time to be pushing your body to its limits.
Excessive inversions (e.g. handstands and headstands sometimes practised in Yoga) in the late second and third trimester are not recommended due to the increase in bump size and so as not to confuse the baby as it prepares for birth.
Laura’s tips – what to avoid
- Exercises that position you on your back after the first trimester, because this position can hinder blood flow to the uterus, and to and from the heart
- Exercises where you lie flat on your front after the first trimester due to an increase in bump and baby size
- Exercise that may cause trauma to the abdominal area – now’s the time to give up your kickboxing and excessive rotation, at least until the baby’s born
- Exercising in high heat environments – always wear loose, comfortable clothing to class, preferably with layers that can be removed
- Long periods of stationary or motionless standing, as this can cause changes in blood pressure
- Any exercise that may cause loss of balance to reduce the risk of falling
Laura’s tips – what to adjust
- Adjust your core training – whenever you can. There are some great options to work your abs in 4-point kneeling, supporting yourself on your elbows (ensuring you keep the chest lifted) or roll over and do hover or plank work
- Drink plenty of water and keep yourself cool
- Reducing intensity when you, and your doctor, think you should
- Let your instructor know that you’re pregnant so they give you the best care and options available
- Always remember to listen to your body – it will always tell you what it needs and what it doesn’t, and STOP if you ever feel dizzy or uncomfortable during a class
Note: Everyone is different – please always consult a doctor before engaging in any new or strenuous exercise! Letting the Reception team and your instructor know that you are pregnant is also a good starting point – both for health and safety reasons and so that they can ensure you are getting the best and safest workout, or advise on the suitability of certain classes or exercises. Pregnancy is generally the time for maintenance, not for pushing yourself for new fitness goals or working out at high intensities, so do let your instructor know if you have any questions.