You simply don’t know tiredness, until you know pregnancy tiredness. It can really sneak up on you and see you nodding off during the six o’clock news for months.
For that reason it can be really tricky to motivate yourself to exercise during pregnancy, whether that be walking the dog, jogging or carrying on with Pilates.
But there’s no denying that the physical and mental health benefits of exercise don’t stop once you get pregnant. So why not try to combat some of your pregnancy symptoms by getting your body moving?
When it comes to the rules, the Department of Health recommends pregnant women get around 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week - so you’re probably good to go, but always check in with your healthcare provider first.
So why should you exercise? Well, not only can exercise during pregnancy speed up labour and improve your postnatal recovery (yes please!), it can also reduce your risk of gestational diabetes and hypertensive disorders.
But despite the glowing review it’s not always easy to know what’s safe, and what isn’t, so here are my top tips.
8 tips on exercise during pregnancy
1. Understand the language
What does moderate intensity actually mean? Well, it varies from person to person, and you can use the Talk Test to be sure. Whilst exercising at a moderate intensity you should still be able to talk throughout, so try to hold a conversation while you’re next lunging in your living room.
Another surefire way to tell is to imagine an effort scale from 1-10 (1 is you sat on the sofa watching Netflix, and 10 is you at the end of a marathon). Aim for an effort level of around 6, and try not to go above 8.
2. Make it manageable
150 minutes might seem like a lot, but it doesn’t have to be all at once - break it down into much smaller chunks! This might look like a 30 minute walk each weekday but can also be built up of 10-minute activity chunks. If you’re new to exercise, try to start with 15-minute bursts and gradually build up.
3. Don’t bump the bump
This one might seem obvious, but try to avoid exercise that risks hitting your bump. This means saying goodbye to contact sports like football, or exercise that is particularly unstable. Instead, try non-contact sports like swimming, running or jogging.
4. Avoid lying flat on your back
From around week 14 of pregnancy it isn’t recommended to lie flat on your back for long periods of time. This is because baby’s positioning and weight can then affect their flow of blood and oxygen - it can leave you feeling dizzy, clammy and short of breath, too. Instead, aim for positions such as side-lying, four-point kneeling, or standing.
5. Make it functional
Pregnancy is the longest marathon you’ll ever run, and labour is the most intense marathon you’ll ever run, so aim to train for the marathon of motherhood. Buggies, car seats, changing bags…they are all heavy, so let’s make sure we’re strong and capable for what’s to come. Try out squats, lunges, and deadlifts.
6. Prioritise your posture
Did you know that during pregnancy your posture is changing incrementally each day? The weight of your bump can make it more likely that your pelvis tilts forward and deepens the curve in your lower back. This can lead to pregnancy related lower back pain (thought to affect around 50% of pregnant women!). Prenatal pilates can really help to manage this change and bring awareness to a more neutral posture.
7. Lift, lift, lift
Pregnancy is the time most women remember they have a pelvic floor. It’s thought that around 63% of pregnant women suffer from stress incontinence (but the number may be higher as not everyone admits they are suffering) and this doesn’t have to be the case. Practicing Kegel exercises daily and bringing awareness to your pelvic floor during your training, can reduce your risk of stress incontinence, and help speed up your postnatal recovery.
8. Listen to your body
I can’t stress this one enough. You know your body better than anyone else! If you don’t feel up to exercising, then don’t. If something doesn’t feel right, then check in with your midwife or doctor.
You’ve got this.