In Pakistan, exercising during pregnancy is virtually unknown. While some have valid reasons, like a high-risk pregnancy or chances of a premature delivery, many others are simply content with-or driven into-lounging about and eating whatever they fancy. Besides, who needs exercise when caring for a newborn will be weight-loss inducing enough, right? Wrong. Working out while you’re pregnant will not only regulate your weight gain, but also improve your cardiovascular system, moods and build up that much-needed stamina for childbirth and post-delivery baby care.
The 1st three months mean differently to different people. Known as the ‘danger zone’, about 80% of miscarriages happen in the 1st trimester. Not a very motivating statistic. However, unless yours is a high-risk pregnancy, the following exercise guidelines-for all trimesters-can ensure safe passage to the next trimester-alongside a healthy mind and body. And for those experiencing morning sickness, day-long nausea and lethargy in trimester 1, light workouts and brisk walking for as little as 5-10 minutes every day is good enough.
- Don’t hold your breath during exercise
- Work just enough that you’re able to hold a conversation while exercising (an indication of a normal heart rate)
- Stop when you feel tired, not after
- Don’t jerk or twist while exercising
- Stay hydrated
- For exercise beginners, start small and work up to 30 minutes per day, at least 3-5 times a week
- Don’t do something you’re physically uncomfortable with
- Discontinue exercise if you experience contractions, abdominal pain, vaginal discharge or bleeding, dizziness, headaches, chest pains or muscular swelling.
The Main Point:
Adopt any or more of the following to attain perfect pregnancy fitness:
Experienced runners can continue with their pre-pregnancy routines; and for those willing to try, 5 minutes a day for 3 days a week is a good starting point. Run on a treadmill with side-safety bars or on flat tracks to avoid falling. However, if you haven’t done this before, you can explore other options on this list.
2- Pilates (pi-la-teez)
These belly-focused exercises are designed to improve physical strength, flexibility and posture. For pregnant women, regular Pilates at least once a week can improve balance and reduce lower back pain-a common issue in the later months. The 1st few days will focus on strength and balance-building, while later sessions will challenge this newfound strength. Exercise just enough and avoid poses that require lying on the back and twisting your torso.
Slow walking can combat lethargy, whereas brisk-walking while swinging your arms can improve blood circulation and build upper body strength-much needed to support the increasing baby-weight in the coming months. Remember to walk on flat surfaces and stay off any rocky pathways to prevent falling.
If you have access to a pool, look no further than this exercise. Swimming is not only soothing, it also improves your blood circulation and ability to utilize oxygen-which is necessary for healthy development of the baby-as well as increasing your stamina and muscle strength. The same exercise schedule applies as above.
The benefits are multifaceted: it lowers blood pressure and teaches various breathing techniques, which will be of use during delivery. Like Pilates, yoga cultivates muscle strength and balance. However, avoid poses that require abdominal twisting, lying on your back or bending it backwards and putting your feet over your head.
6- Weight Training:
Working out twice a week using light to moderately heavy weights will build full body strength and accustom you to carrying the ever-increasing baby weight without causing back problems. However, avoid all exercises that require lying flat or holding weights over the belly.
Some Specific Exercises:
1- Donkey Kicks:
- Get on all fours, with hands shoulder-width apart and knees below your hips, like crawling
- Keep one knee bent and lift one leg up, keeping it straight, and repeat with the other leg.
2- Triceps Dips:
- Roll back your shoulders and mimic a half-standing, half-sitting position, while holding a chair or other supportive structure behind you. Keep your arms shoulder-width apart and elbows slightly bent.
- Slowly lower yourself so that your shoulder joints are below your elbow, exhale, get back up slowly, and repeat.
Past the 1st three months? Read about exercise tips and techniques in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. Always get permission from your doctor before trying out any exercise routine. Book an Appointment with a top Gynecologist in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Multan through oladoc.com. Or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your gestational needs.
About the Writer:
Yashfa Marrium is a freelance writer and health enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected]