Exercise and Pregnancy
It has become more common knowledge that exercise is good and beneficial for everyone’s health. However, some of us may realise that certain people may have difficulty to do the same exercises as everyone else or the more “popular” exercises. There are various cases where a “default” set of exercises may not work for certain people; this could be due to current injuries, mobility/flexibility differences, strength differences, bony differences, body shape differences, etc. In particular, this post is an overview of exercise during pregnancy and will cover exercise for pregnant women.
Why should you exercise during pregnancy? A recent clinical review article (Hinman et al 2015) showed that exercise reduced C-section rates and appropriate maternal (mother) and fetal (baby) weight gain on top of the common cardiorespiratory, metabolism benefit that applies to everyone. When the risk is properly managed and there is no specific medical condition prohibiting you from exercise, there should be no reason to completely stop exercising. In saying that, as mentioned before, depending on your pregnancy, there would be different exercises you can and cannot do, and others that you may need to modify, but it doesn’t mean you’re stuck in bed for 9 months for most people.
Diastasis recti is a condition that commonly occurs in relation to pregnancy. This occurs when the abdominal muscles split – usually but not always associated with pregnancy. This is often a common concern for pregnant women who exercise. At the point of this writing, there is no conclusive evidence that exercise will make it worse, nor make it better during pregnancy; as reviewed by Benjamin et al (2014), mainly due to low amount of high-quality research that has been performed. Anecdotally, some people have put emphasis in core activation/strengthening/control to prevent this condition.
So, what should you do? Exercise according to your body, your limits, and your goals – this could be determined by your own body, how far along you are in your pregnancy, and how your pregnancy is affecting you – everyone’s pregnancy is different! This is best done when a professional is guiding you, be it an exercise therapist, a personal trainer, a physiotherapist – especially if your doctor has given you the green light for it.
In saying that, here are a few things that can start you off. Generally low speed and low load is where you want to start and you can build up from there. Squats, quadruped bird dogs, half-kneeling stance, side-planks, wall push-ups are some examples. DO adjust your depth/stance/weight according to your own body as the pregnancy bump may prevent people from squatting deeper for instance.
Therefore, these simple exercises may be a starting point for some people, while for others a step back while they are pregnant. Regardless, unless there is a medical reason, there is no health reason for most pregnant women to completely stop exercising. You just need to modify it to suit your needs and your body! When in doubt always check with your doctor, trainer or health professional.