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Exercise and Pregnancy – channel your inner S CLUB and don’t stop movin’

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Firstly, I hope you enjoyed my referenced there, it was between that or FIVE, but I was an avid S CLUB 7 fan when I was younger and so had to pay homage to them and the karaoke song that will always get me up… pregnant or not…

Prior to becoming a Hypnobirthing teacher, I was a PT – I first specialised in women’s fitness and later went on to complete my pre and post-natal training to work with new and expectant mums, guiding them on safe and effective exercise during and after pregnancy.

For most mums to be, exercising is safe and encouraged, especially if it’s part of your daily routine. Exercising during pregnancy can have huge benefits to you and baby and could mean that you are less likely to experience complications later on.

For me, exercise is how I keep my mind sane – it’s a stress relief and it helps me to remain calm, (apart from the lane swimming etiquette – or dare I say lack off at times), therefore, even though the caffeine is on hold, my daily bout of exercise is something I was happy I could continue.

A pregnant woman exercising during her first trimester

So is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Yes - to put it simply. If you have been signed off by your midwife to exercise then it is completely safe and your midwife will encourage you to continue being active, adapting along the way where needed. You may find as your bump grows, some activities may become more challenging and so finding alternatives that you find comfortable are key to keeping your body moving.

I have always been quite active and I wasn’t sure how I would adapt to the changes my body would go through – however, I have found that I have embraced these changes and looked at ways I could keep my strength and prepare my body for my own labour and birth journey.

What are the recommendations during pregnancy?

The NHS guidelines say “Keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise (sport, running, yoga, dancing, or even walking to the shops and back) for as long as you feel comfortable. As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you're probably exercising too strenuously.’

It is important to note that if you were not active before you got pregnant, do not suddenly take up strenuous exercise, maybe start with some gentle walking and moving your body with daily stretches – although trying to touch your toes in your third trimester might become exercise enough.

If you start an aerobic exercise programme (such as running, swimming, cycling or aerobics classes), always tell the instructor that you're pregnant, this way they can make sure you are following best practice and can adapt the class to you if needed.

The amazing benefits of exercise during pregnancy.

For me, the mental health benefits are what have kept me active during my pregnancy. Exercise is known to release endorphins (feel good hormones) and I always feel calmer, less stressed and more positive whenever I have taken part In any kind of physical activity.

By keeping up my weekly routine, I have felt in control of some part of my pregnancy and it has really helped with a positive mindset. Yes I have had to adapt and I have stopped certain parts of my training, but I know that if I had stopped, my mindset would be totally different.

There are so many other benefits to keeping active during pregnancy including:

  • Helps you manage your weight during pregnancy and after giving birth – along with a healthy balanced diet!

  • Can help to maintain and also improve fitness levels

  • Helps you sleep better at night – unless you have an overactive baby who uses your insides as a punch bag

  • May Make you less likely to suffer from the common aches and pains of pregnancy

  • Can help reduce constipation

  • Reduce your levels of anxiety and depression

  • Reduce the risk of your baby being born pre-term

  • Increase the chances of your baby being born within the expected weight range

There have also been some studies to show that regular exercise in pregnancy can help to decrease the likelihood of you developing gestational diabetes.

Evidence supports that exercise has a beneficial effect on the incidence of GDM and GH in non–overweight or obese pregnant women. Furthermore, these benefits are greater when exercise interventions are supervised, have a low to moderate intensity level, and are initiated during the first trimester of pregnancy.

"Even little things like taking my dog for a walk really helped with my mindset. Being out in the fresh air and just moving my body in the simplest of ways was so beneficial to me". - Emma

a pregnant woman in a swimming costume

So what can you do to keep active?

Providing you have no underlying health conditions and no contraindications to exercise – below are some of the best ways I have found to keep active.

  • Walking – I tend to walk every day for at least 30 minutes, this is made much easier for me as I have a 6 year old Sproodle who loves his daily visit to the woods for a run around. I love being out in nature and getting my daily dose of fresh air, so a daily walk for me is a non-negotiable – but ask me how I feel about that in 10 weeks time when I’m 35 weeks pregnant and it's winter.

  • Swimming – now this is something new I have added to my exercise regime and I love it. I try to swim 3 times a week. Some days I only have time for 30 minutes, some days I swim for an hour. I find it extremely calming and it’s an amazing all over body workout!

  • Pilates, modified for pregnancy – I attend a class once a week. I informed the teacher from being 6 weeks pregnant – 20 weeks later I am still enjoying it and I am grateful that this is som

ething I can continue. The class I go to is quite challenging but I make sure I listen to my body and always take the alternatives to some of the exercises I struggle with. This has definitely helped with my strength and balance.

  • Strength training – I have limited this from 5 times a week to once a week where I tend to follow a low impact program and only when I feel like it!

Couple and their dog in the peak district

Other things you can try are:

  • Low-impact aerobics - aquafit is a great class to attend! Many studies have proven that woman who participate in water based exercise during pregnancy reported significantly less physical discomfort, improved mobility and improved body image

compared to those that did not work out in the water.

  • Yoga, modified for pregnancy - I actually attended a Pregnancy Yoga Class with Peaceful Pregnancies this week and it was so good! It was nice to stretch and relax and it's a great way for you to get your body ready for labour.

Exercise and activities to avoid

  • Do not lie flat on your back for long periods, particularly after 16 weeks, because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart and this can make you feel faint

  • Do not take part in contact sports where there's a risk of being hit, such as kickboxing, judo or squash

  • Do not go scuba diving, because the baby has no protection against decompression sickness and gas embolism (gas bubbles in the bloodstream)

  • Do not exercise at heights over 2,500m above sea level

"I carried on with my usual exercise routine throughout my pregnancy. I had to adapt some things as baby got bigger but I absolutely know that keeping my body moving was hugely beneficial to me, my body and my mind." - Laura

My top tips for exercise in pregnancy

  • Find something you enjoy doing and that you can be consistent with.

  • Don’t use exercise as a punishment on yourself. It should enjoyable and because you want to move your body, not because you feel you have to.

  • Find a workout buddy – this could be for a weekly walk and a coffee or a friend to join you lane swimming.

  • Listen to your body and if you feel tired or just generally can’t be bothered, that’s ok! Especially in your first trimester when you may feel tired and nauseous and then again in your third trimester when your bump is much bigger and you might find things difficult.

  • Always tell your instructor as soon as you find out. They will able to let you know if their class is safe for you, if they're qualified to instruct you at this time. They can also offer alternatives or modifications if required.

  • Try to walk at least 3-4 times week.

  • Ignore the people who try to put you o

ff exercising and tell you to make the most of being lazy and eating for 2- yes, I have had this from many people, I politely remind them to mind their own business.

All in all, if you feel fit and well and you have the all clear – Don’t Stop Moving.

Adapt where you need to and always listen to your body – but if you feel good, then absolutely carry on!

A pregnant woman in gym clothes

For updates with all my blogs and information on upcoming courses and classes with me – head to my website and sign up to my newsletter

Love always,

Hannah xx

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