10 Tips on How to Maintain an Active Pregnancy

by @shakira.akabusi

Pregnancy undoubtably brings with it a variety of physical changes and it's not uncommon for women to want to engage in exercise and get active. However, with only approximately 5.5% of fitness industry professionals being qualified in pre- and postnatal exercise, finding the right information on how to train correctly can be tricky. With benefits that not only helping to prepare the body for labour but aid a quicker recovery postpartum, it’s crucial that more information becomes readily available. Here are my 10 top tips on how to maintain an active pregnancy. Hopefully this can help to get you get started on your healthy mum-to-be journey.
 
 
1 Healthy Body - Healthy Mind
In the first trimester women often experience nausea, headaches and lightheadedness, making exercise the furthest thing from your mind. However a sustainable fitness programme starts with a healthy mindset, so use this time to prepare mentally for the journey ahead. Accept the changes that your body will under-go but know that you are in control of how fit, strong and powerful you want to be and that maintaining a heathy lifestyle prior to and during pregnancy not only has immediate benefits but has been proven to aid a quicker recovery postpartum.
 
2) Biochemistry 
It’s important to understand the effects of the hormone Relaxin when planning to workout in pregnancy. Initially produced around the second week of pregnancy the role of Relaxin is to relax the ligaments of the pelvic floor in preparation for childbirth. As the effects cannot be confined to the pelvic area, joint stability is affected throughout the body, meaning care must be taken to control range of movement, as the stability of various joint structures are compromised.
 
3) Fresh Air
Fresh air has been proven to improve a persons mood, strengthen the immune system, aid digestion and boost energy levels. As such, you may find that although morning sickness can leave you curled up on the sofa, getting up and out for a short 20 minute walk, helps clear your mind much more effectively.
 
4) Build Up Slowly
Pregnancy is not the time to start over exerting yourself and push your boundaries. Start with small lifestyle changes that are sustainable, for example walking once or twice a week. Pelvic floor exercise are also important as the additional weight in the uterus combined with the effects of Relaxin will greatly compromise the strength of this area. Additionally, as pregnancy progresses and your centre of gravity shifts, time should be spent assessing your posture in order to prevent injury or backache.
 
5) To lift or not to lift?
Although pregnancy isn’t the time to test your limits, lifting weights is a great way to maintain muscle tone, core strength and bone density. As a beginner you may wish to focus on fixed resistance machines as apposed to free weights due to the comprised stability of the joints. Alternatively, resistance bands are a great way to moderately increase the intensity of body-weight exercises.
 
6) Abdominal Training in Pregnancy 
Exercising abdominal muscles is crucial during pregnancy as they help to control the tilt of the pelvis, stabilise the spine and support the pregnant uterus. This abdominal strength can help to reduce back ache from the increased lumbar curvature and enable you to regain strength and tone more quickly during the postnatal period. However crunches and sit-ups are not advised. Static contractions and exercises such as pelvic tilts, four point kneeling with single arm lifts, side laying hip hitch and adapted half plank are recommended as safe abdominal conditioning when pregnant.
 
7) Intensity
The intensity of antenatal exercise is specific to each individual. However as a general guideline intensity should not exceed 60- 70% of a persons maximum effort. Remember, sleep deprivation, mood and diet can affect how exercise may impact you, making the same workout less or more intense on a different day.
 
8) Staying Hydrated 
Drinking plenty of water  is essential during pregnancy, especially if you’re engaging in exercise. Water helps your body absorb essential nutrients and transport vitamins, minerals and hormones to the blood cells and ultimately your baby via the placenta. Be sure to sip before, during and after your workout to ensure you stay hydrated and never fall into deficit.
 
9) Healthy Diet
A recent study release by England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies aimed to end the myth that pregnant women need to ‘eat for two’. After 18 weeks the body is said to require an additional 300 kcal per day to meet the metabolic needs to pregnancy. This is greater for the exercising pregnant women however there is no need to double the recommended daily kcal intake during the gestation period.
 
10) Yoga and Stretching 
Yoga and stretching have numerous benefits for pregnant women, not just physically but also for a healthier mindset. Yoga can help to boost circulation and reduce fluid retention while stretching in general is brilliant to relieve aches and pains. Posture is also improved by yoga and this can help ease back pain. Make sure to attend only prenatal yoga classes or work with a trained antenatal professional as stretches must be adapted for the pregnant woman to avoid discomfort and muscular strain.

Be sure to check out www.stronglikemum.com for more pregnancy and post-pregnancy fitness tips and follow @shakira.akabusi on Instagram and @shakiraakabusi on twitter for more creative mum and baby workout ideas.  

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