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Exercising During Pregnancy

We all know the many benefits of exercise, for both our physical and mental wellbeing. Enjoying exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent chronic illnesses, future-proof against the effects of aging, encourage activity and socialisation, and keep us strong and well. 

But what about exercise during pregnancy? Should you be keeping your feet up, avoiding strenuous movement and focusing your energy on your baby? Or can you stick to your regular exercise routines? Here, PureGym Personal Trainer and Ante- and Post-natal expert Shan Chloe answers some of the most common questions about exercising while pregnant.

Is exercise important during pregnancy?

Historically, pregnant people have been considered more fragile, and were often advised to avoid exercise during the pregnancy months. This has since been proven to not be the case, with groups like the NHS and NCT recommending a healthy exercise routine be kept up, unless other medical conditions might keep you from doing so. 

Exercise is extremely important during pregnancy as not only will you feel energised and refreshed, but it also makes the antenatal period easier. Exercising while pregnant can help reduce common complaints (such as leg cramps, gestational diabetes, and high or low blood pressure) to ensure you have a more comfortable pregnancy. Staying fit can keep both you and your child at a healthy weight, and studies have shown that exercising throughout pregnancy can boost the cardiac and physical strength of your baby once born. Plus, women who exercise regularly during their pregnancy are also more likely to have a shorter labour. Keeping active also has benefits for post pregnancy too. 

You'll just need to tailor your exercise style to suit the different stages of your pregnancy. It's advised to avoid contact sports, or anything that could risk a major fall.

Who should not exercise during pregnancy?

Working out isn't for everyone - we all need to listen to our bodies when we exercise. This is especially true when pregnant. If you experience any of the following when exercising, then you should stop immediately and consult your GP for medical advice before continuing.

  • Chest pain or palpitations

  • Severe iron deficiency or anaemia

  • Excessive shortness of breath

  • Excessive fatigue

  • Abdominal pain or any form of excessive pain

  • Calf pain or swelling

  • Sudden pain in the legs

  • Feeling faint or woozy

Pregnant women shouldn't look to increase their activity levels from pre-pregnancy. If you were already lifting weights, running, etc, it's fine to continue (unless you experience any of the above issues). However if you're currently leading a sedentary lifestyle, this is not the time to start an intense regime! Walking and swimming is a great place to start if you want to get the benefits of exercise during pregnancy but were previously inactive.

Can you still exercise in early pregnancy?

Yes. You can still exercise in early pregnancy, providing that you're feeling fit and healthy. It's vital that you listen to your body and be in tune with your pregnancy symptoms. Many pregnant people encounter sickness in the early pregnancy - if this is the case, you may want to avoid strenuous activity while you're not feeling well. 

You may not look pregnant in those early months, so if you're continuing with classes or PT sessions, make sure to let your trainer know that you're expecting, as they may want to adjust your workouts slightly to suit you. 

Early pregnancy is also a good time to start integrating the exercises you'll be more reliant on by the later trimesters. For example, you could start including swimming or yoga in place of running, so your body is more used to these types of movements once you're more heavily pregnant and need to ease off higher intensity exercise. 

Some women find they are able to exercise right through their pregnancy by dropping the intensity - for example, lowering the weight you're lifting during strength training, or cutting out HIIT workouts to focus on gentler cardio. We've covered some of the best exercises for pregnant people in this guide.

Which month should you stop exercising during pregnancy?

It’s all about listening to your body. As the baby is developing, more stress will be put on your body - you’ll naturally be carrying a lot more weight as the child grows and will be using a lot of energy just supplying them with all their needs. However, as long as you’re comfortable and healthy, then you’re free to continue with gentle exercise right up until the birth. Just don’t overdo it! You should stop exercising immediately if you’re in pain or experiencing any discomfort in your body. Contact your midwife and doctor to seek medical guidance.

How much exercise can you do during pregnancy

You can really do as much exercise as you feel comfortable with, just don't push yourself to exhaustion. The NHS recommends that everyone gets at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week, where your heart rate is increased and body temperature rises. The 150 minutes can be divided into 30 minutes workouts. This is a good target to aim for while pregnant, although as mentioned above, you may want to ease off as you work into your trimester and stick to whatever's comfortable.

Keep up your fitness routine by finding a PureGym near you - we offer a range of fitness classes and expert PTs who will be able to guide you through your pregnancy exercise plan. Prefer to work out at home? Download the free PureGym app for a range of exercise ideas.

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