Ah, pregnancy that golden time when you finally get to cancel the gym membership, put your feet up and ‘burn calories’ through a combination of channel surfing and padding to and from the fridge. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? But unfortunately, that’s not the reality.
While fitness shouldn’t be your main consideration during pregnancy, it’s important to stay active where possible. After all, you’re about to become a parent and in between nappy-changing marathons and late-night feeding sessions you’re going to need a good level of energy in order to rise to the challenge.
Of course, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to pregnancy exercise and what is safe, so to give me a nudge in the right direction, I caught up with pre- and post-natal exercise specialist, Amy Saunders of Urban Energy Fitness. She gave me the lowdown about pregnancy exercise and busted the myths and misconceptions that surround this tricky topic. To put your mind at ease, here is the reality check on five prenatal fitness myths that just won’t die.
Myth number one
You can’t exercise while you’re pregnant.
“There are many benefits to exercising during pregnancy, such as a boost in energy, a reduction in water retention, ease of back pain and a reduced risk of gestational diabetes, and the best part is you can continue doing most of the things you were doing before, with modifications. However, I would always suggest avoiding impact sports like kickboxing, ruby and soccer, due to the higher risk of injury and falling whilst pregnant. Some great exercises for pregnant women include swimming, walking, running (only if previously a competent runner) aqua aerobics for cardio, weights for strength and some safe, effective core exercises.”
Myth number two
If you’ve never exercised you can’t start during pregnancy.
“I would never advise vigorous exercise for any pregnant client, especially not a person that has never exercised. The general rule is, don’t start something new when you’re pregnant. That said, I would definitely recommend a very gentle fitness routine, working out for 30-45 minutes three times a week. This will certainly benefit the pregnant woman that has never exercised before.”
Myth number 3
You’re eating for two.
“You actually only require 300 calories more per day for a single pregnancy or 500 calories more if having twins. So my advice is to continue eating as you would normally but add in a couple of snacks per day to give you the extra calories that you need, like a smoothie or a healthy oat bar.”
Myth number 4
You can’t do core work during pregnancy.
“Abdominal work is not advisable after the first trimester. The reason for this is that as your baby grows the abdominal wall stretches and by doing abdominal exercises you increase the pressure. Doing abdominal work can increase the chances of diastasis recti (separation of the stomach muscles). However, transverse abdominis muscle activation and pelvic floor exercise are a great way to keep the stomach muscles and core strong throughout pregnancy.”
Myth number 5
Pelvic floor exercises are a waste of time.
“Absolutely not true. The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles that stretches across the floor of your pelvis. These muscles give you control over your bladder and bowls, as well as forming a pelvic girdle for stability. Both pregnancy and childbirth have a detrimental impact on our pelvic floor muscles, as does excess weight gain. After giving birth you may experience stress incontinence (something which affects a third of new mums) which is where you accidentally leak a little urine when you cough, sneeze or exercise. To reduce the risk of this you can do pelvic floor exercises prior to the birth, which is where you squeeze the muscles 10 to 15 times in a row on a daily basis.”