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Should you workout during pregnancy?

Last updated on: September 20, 2019 10:17 IST

Always warm up before and allow your body to cool down, after exercising, says Zumba instructor and ambassador Sucheta Pal.
Don't do any exercise where you get too hot.

Pregnancy tips by Sucheta Pal

"Regular exercise during pregnancy can improve health," suggests Sucheta Pal. says Photographs: Kind courtesy Sucheta Pal

Pregnancy is that time in every woman’s life where she feels a sudden change in her body -- both physically and emotionally!

It’s a myth that a pregnant woman cannot perform exercise, dance or any other activity which requires a lot of stamina and effort.

It is very important to understand what happens in a woman’s body during pregnancy.

Most of us gain weight, which is quite normal as there is a sudden change in our hormones.

The process of gaining weight starts in the first 20 weeks, where a woman puts on approximately 2 kg, and slowly by the 40th week it increases to half kg per week.

For a woman, these 9 months are the most beautiful and precious months of her life wherein she gains a total of 9 to 12 kg.

There are chances of an increase in heart size during pregnancy due to an increase in the heart's workload.

The heart has to pump blood through the placenta, fetus, a much larger uterus and the abdomen of the woman who is giving birth to the baby.

Shortness of breath is a common symptom of pregnancy. Doctors often attribute this to the uterus growing and pushing upward on the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

In addition, progesterone causes a loosening of ligaments and joints throughout the body.

Pregnant women may be at greater risk of sprains and strains because the ligaments are looser, and because their posture has changed.

Regular exercise during pregnancy can improve health, reduce the risk of excess weight gain and back pain, and it can also make delivery easier.

Here are some tips to stay healthy:

Take permission from your gynaecologist or obstetrician before doing any exercises

If you have a medical problem such as asthma, diabetes or any other heart-related problems, in such cases doing exercises is not advisable.

Exercises may also be unsafe if you have any pregnancy-related problems like bleeding or spotting, low placenta, threatened or recurrent miscarriage, previous premature births or history of early labour or if you have a weak cervix.

An exercise specialist can modify and give you a personalised exercise plan.

Slow down but don't stop

If you were physically active before your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity in moderation.

Don’t try to exercise at your former level; instead, do what’s most comfortable for you now. Reduce the intensity of your regular exercise by 30%.

Never exercised? You can start it when you are pregnant

If you have never exercised regularly before, you can safely begin an exercise programme during pregnancy after consulting with your healthcare provider, but do not try a new, strenuous activity.

Walking or prenatal yoga is considered safe to initiate when pregnant.

Choose your workout wisely

One can also do exercises or activities that do not require great balance or any kind of coordination, especially later in pregnancy as the centre of gravity shifts to the front.

For total fitness, a pregnancy exercise program is recommended to strengthen and to improve the condition of your muscles.

Pregnancy tips by Sucheta Pal

Before you sign up for a class, here are some important things you must know:

  • Always warm-up before exercising, and cool down afterwards.
  • If you go to exercise classes, make sure your teacher is properly qualified and knows that you're pregnant and how many weeks pregnant you are.
  • Exercise on a flat, level surface to prevent injury.
  • Don’t lie flat on your back, particularly after 16 weeks, because the weight of your bump presses on the big blood vessels and can make you feel faint and reduce blood flow to your baby.
  • Consume enough calories to meet the needs of your pregnancy (300 more calories per day than before you were pregnant) as well as your exercise program.
  • Drink adequate water before, during, and after your workout.
  • After doing floor exercises, get up slowly and gradually to prevent dizziness.
  • As a general rule, a light to moderate level of activity should allow you to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you’re probably exercising too strenuously.
  • Don’t do any exercise where you get too hot. Your body’s temperature is slightly higher when you are pregnant. Intensive exercise may cause your core temperature to rise to an unsafe level for your baby.
  • Limit your exercise to moderate intensity, drink plenty of water, wear lightweight clothing and only exercise in cool, well ventilated places (no spas or saunas).

Practice pelvic floor exercises

Pregnancy and birth weaken your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles are the layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis.

They are located in your pelvis and go from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. They are shaped like a hammock and protect your bowels, womb and bladder.

Your pelvic floor muscles support these organs when you jump, sneeze or cough, lift heavy things, and push your baby out in the second stage of labour.

Make sure you do pelvic floor exercises, as they are important during pregnancy because there is added pressure in the abdomen that can cause strain on your pelvic floor muscles.

By keeping them strong you can help decrease the risk of becoming incontinent.

As not all exercise is beneficial during pregnancy, there are few which can put you at increased risk of injury. Below are few exercises which you should avoid during pregnancy:

  • Contact sports and sports that put you at risk of getting hit in the abdomen, including ice hockey, boxing, soccer, and basketball
  • Skydiving
  • Activities that may result in a fall, such as downhill snow skiing, water skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, gymnastics, and horseback riding
  • 'Hot yoga' or 'hot Pilates,' which may cause your body to heat up.
  • Scuba diving
  • Activities performed above 6,000 feet (if you do not already live at a high altitude)

Motherhood is a new and exciting phase of life. Remember each pregnancy and motherhood is unique and there is no right or wrong way of doing it.

Sucheta Pal is ambassador and educator of Zumba fitness.

TELL US: How did you stay fit during your pregnancy? Share your valuable tips and advice in the messageboard below.

Sucheta Pal
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