Regular activity that gets your body moving and your heart working is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. It is safe for most women.
Being active can help you:
- feel more energetic.
- gain a healthy amount of weight.
- relax and reduce stress.
- sleep better.
- improve your muscle tone, strength and endurance, flexibility and posture.
- prevent gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
- build stamina for labour and delivery.
- recover after childbirth.
Activities you can enjoy while pregnant are brisk walking, cycling on a stationary bike, swimming, dancing, low impact and water aerobics, cardio machines at a fitness centre, and cross country skiing/snowshoeing (being careful not to fall).
After choosing an activity you enjoy, it is important to listen to your body, and only do what feels comfortable.
- Consult your health care provider before beginning or changing a physical activity program to learn if you need to change how you exercise or avoid certain exercises.
- Always start with a short warm-up and end with a cool-down.
- Drink water before, during and after physical activity.
- Eat a light snack 30-60 minutes before exercising.
- Monitor how hard you are exercising. It’s okay to be slightly out of breath, but if you can’t carry on a conversation, slow down the intensity of your activity.
- Take a break if you need to.
- Be careful when doing activities that could cause you to lose your balance and fall.
- Avoid activities that require sudden stops and starts, that cause you to strain or hold your breath (heavy lifting), that could cause you to be hit or that involve pressure changes (scuba diving, hiking above 1600 metres).
- Keep cool and avoid being active in warm environments such as hot yoga studios or outdoors when it is really warm or humid. This includes hot tubs and saunas.
- Avoid exercising on your back after 16 weeks of pregnancy so your growing uterus doesn’t press on a major vein or artery and decrease the flow of blood. Instead try lying on your side, sitting or standing.
What if I haven’t been active?
The safest and best time to increase your aerobic activity is after the 12th week of pregnancy (the first trimester). Gradually increase your activity from 15 minutes three times per week to 30 minutes four times a week.
What if I’m already active?
If you already exercise three to four times a week for 30 minutes, keep it up! But remember pregnancy is not the time to train for an athletic competition!
What about resistance activities?
You can maintain strength and muscle tone using high repetitions and low weights or resistance bands. Remember to maintain a neutral pelvis and to breathe throughout.
Most women do not experience any worrisome symptoms when they are physically active during pregnancy. But it is important to listen to your body. Stop your activity and consult your health care provider if you become uncomfortable and experience pain, dizziness/faintness, and shortness of breath or other symptoms.
Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor, the area between the vagina and anus, which support your uterus, bladder and bowel. Daily pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy and after you give birth helps prevent you from leaking urine when you cough or laugh.
How do you do kegel exercises?
- Do this exercise sitting, standing or lying down.
- Relax with your knees slightly apart.
- Imagine you are trying to hold back urine or a bowel movement. Squeeze the muscles you would use to do that. Do not tighten your stomach or buttocks.
- Tighten the muscles for 5-10 seconds, continuing to breathe. Relax for 10 seconds.
- Repeat this 12 to 20 times, three to five times a day.