While morning sickness, weight gain and fatigue may make you feel like skipping your exercise session, a mild to moderate exercise programme can strengthen your body, de-stress the mind and help you feel better. As pregnancy progresses the heart is less able to adapt to the increased demands of high intensity exercise, also with the release of the hormone relaxing, joints become looser; increasing the risk of injury during exercise. Here are some dos and don’ts to make exercise safe during this period. Remember exercise goals during pregnancy should be discussed with a physician.
Exercise may be performed three to five times a week for duration of 30 to 40 minutes, at low to moderate intensity. Your exercise intensity can range between 45 to 70 per cent of your target heart rate depending on your age, fitness level and medical history.
Do low impact exercises
Do not begin a vigorous exercise programme during pregnancy. Stop exercising when fatigued and do not exercise to exhaustion. Low impact exercises such as swimming or cycling or walking are safe; high impact exercises such as skipping and jumping must be avoided.
Too much, too fast, too soon are the main causes of injury. Your objective should be to exercise without over-training or over-straining.
Avoid exercising while lying on your back
Avoid exercise while lying on your back. Such a position is associated with decreased cardiac output in pregnant women.
Avoid abdominal exercises
Abdominal exercises must be avoided during this period. Any kind of exercise involving the potential of even mild abdominal trauma should be avoided.
Be careful while stretching
Avoid overstretching - women are more flexible during this period.
Use light weights
Weight training with light weights is safe; avoid lifting heavy weights during this period.
A warm-up prepares the body for the activity to follow. Muscles perform better and are less prone to injury when they are warm. A warm-up can mean simply walking or marching for 10 minutes to raise the body's core temperature.
A cool-down lowers the body's temperature, gradually. This prevents dizziness and extreme fatigue post-workouts. Suddenly stopping without cooling down can result in a rapid drop in blood pressure and light-headedness. The last 10 minutes of the workout should be cool-down time. This allows the blood to return from the working muscles to the heart and for the body to return to its resting state.
Do focus on form and technique
Right form and technique protect the joints and safeguard the body from exercise trauma; whereas wrong technique or jerky movements can cause injury. It is essential to focus on posture and keeping your body properly aligned while exercising.
Include deep breathing exercises
Include deep breathing exercises to de-stress and relax the mind.
Water loss due to perspiration and sweating needs to be replaced. Drink plenty of water before, after and during an exercise routine to prevent dehydration.
Rest plays an important role in formulating effective training sessions. It helps the muscles recuperate from the stresses of exercises and helps the body get rid of fatigue and muscular exhaustion. Especially while weight training, the muscles need at least 48 hours of rest in between workouts sessions to recover and recuperate.
The writer is a Certified Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.