What exercise can you do whilst pregnant?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that becoming pregnant would mean you’d have to (or want to) completely stop your regular fitness routine – but that doesn’t have to be the case. We’ll help bust the myths around exercise and pregnancy and hear from Victoria who works in our Positive Health team, who is now 30 weeks pregnant with her first child.

Professional advice

The NHS states that; the more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth.

You can keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise (be it sport, running, yoga or dancing) for as long as you feel comfortable. Don’t be fooled into scare stories about exercise and pregnancy - exercise is not dangerous for your baby. There is even evidence to suggest that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour.

However, the NHS website does say that (understandably) you may need to slow down or adjust your fitness routine as your pregnancy progresses, (or if your maternity team advises you to). If you’re are in any doubt, the best thing to do is consult your maternity team or doctor.

If you want more information on this, including some suggested exercises, top tips and things to avoid, take a look at the Your pregnancy and baby guide on the NHS website.

Victoria’s story

On 8th October 2017, after a summer of quite intense training, I ran the Chester Marathon in a time of 3 hours 9 minutes, a two-minute PB.  This came as a bit of surprise considering less than three weeks later I found out I was pregnant with my first baby!  

Having worked in the fitness industry for ten years, I’ve had numerous pregnant clients and have taken the Exercise and Pregnancy training course. But even with this training and experience, I was a little disconcerted about what this would actually mean to my own exercise routine.

It soon became clear to me that the information out there on the internet is often vague and can be full of scaremongering tales. For example, a pregnant friend told me that she’d read that you should not let your heart rate go above 110. I pointed out to her that walking upstairs would probably be enough to bring about this increase and I imagine that during labour your heart rate probably has to contend with higher rates than this!  

Scare stories, fear of miscarriage, lack of exercise knowledge and remarks from well-meaning friends and family means that many women stop exercising when pregnant or cut back dramatically on what they do - but this isn’t necessary.

For me there was no debate that I would continue to exercise and I would keep on running for as long as I could.  I have therefore carried on with many of my usual classes and weight training with just some minor adjustments to what I do.  I am now lifting lighter weights, I have taken out any high-impact exercises and I have stopped any contact sports, (my annual ski trip was a non-starter this year!).  I have also definitely introduced more pelvic floor exercises to my routine!

With regard to running, I have reduced my weekly mileage to around five runs a week each of between 4-6 miles. I have stopped my speed work sessions and, apart from the occasional Parkrun, I am not racing this year.  

Over the last five months I have definitely slowed down but I am still enjoying being able to get out and do the exercise I love.  I have found that as my bump has grown it has not got in the way and it actually feels more comfortable to run now that it did right at the beginning.  

Pregnancy is definitely not a time for PB’s but there is no reason why women can’t maintain their fitness and definitely prepare their body for childbirth and motherhood. If you are already exercising you can (and should) be able to continue to do so throughout your whole pregnancy.

My main advice would be to not start anything new without the guidance of a trained exercise professional or a specialist class such as pre-natal yoga or Pilates. But if you are already doing exercise then continue with it.

Now at week 30 I am aware that, in my third trimester, things may slow down further. But I will continue to exercise for as long as I feel comfortable and am definitely making the most of the time that I have for exercise as I have a suspicion that when the baby arrives time may be limited!

For more information read the Your pregnancy and baby guide on the NHS website.

ymca | 18 April 2018