Exercise and pregnancy: everything you need to know

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Exercise and pregnancy go hand in hand for a healthy and safe pregnancy. Regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and provide a host of benefits for both mother and baby.

In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that pregnant women should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. This should include activities such as brisk walking, swimming, and water aerobics. Strength and balance exercises should also be incorporated at least two times per week.

It is important for pregnant women to be aware of the changes that happen to the body during pregnancy and to modify their exercise routine accordingly. It is recommended that pregnant women should avoid activities that involve contact or risk of falling, and that they should stay hydrated, wear loose-fitting clothing, and avoid exercising in hot weather.

The benefits of exercise during pregnancy include reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, managing high blood pressure, improving sleep and energy levels, reducing back pain, and improving mental wellbeing.

The following are some recommended exercises for different stages of pregnancy:

First trimester

It is recommended that pregnant women engage in moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, and stationary biking, during the first trimester of pregnancy. Low-impact exercises such as yoga, Pilates, and stretching can also be beneficial. It is important to avoid activities that involve jerking, bouncing, or high impact, as these can be dangerous during pregnancy. It is important to listen to your body and take breaks if you start to feel tired or uncomfortable.

Second trimester

During the second trimester of pregnancy, it is recommended to add in resistance training to help maintain core strength and muscle tone. Resistance training has been found to benefit pregnant women by reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, improving posture, and reducing lower back pain. Additionally, strengthening the core and lower body muscles can help to prepare the body for labor and delivery. What’s more, resistance training can also help with energy levels, reducing fatigue and improving overall strength and endurance. It is important to ensure that exercises are performed correctly and with proper form to ensure safety during the exercise.

In addition to resistance training, aerobic exercises, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, are also recommended during the second trimester.

Third trimester

This is the time when the baby is growing the most, so it is important to listen to your body and take it easy. Exercise during the third trimester should focus on low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, yoga, and other prenatal exercises. Resistance training can still be done during the third trimester, but it is important to focus on low weights and high repetitions. However, it is important to listen to your body and adjust your exercise routine as needed.

Exercise during pregnancy can be incredibly beneficial for both mother and baby, but it is important to be mindful of the changes to the body and to listen to your body. Exercise can be adjusted to suit each individual and their stage of pregnancy, and with the guidance of a healthcare professional, it can be a safe and enjoyable experience.

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