Opinion Column

Fit for Life: Donna Cotnam discusses the benefits of remaining active during pregnancy

By Donna Cotnam, Daily Observer

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Pregnant woman exercising by walking and carrying a bottle of water.Donna Cotnam talks about the importance of contining to excercise within reason during pregnancy.

Getty images Pregnant woman exercising by walking and carrying a bottle of water.Donna Cotnam talks about the importance of contining to excercise within reason during pregnancy.

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Should women really exercise when they are pregnant? It has been a concern that has been expressed for years (mostly by ’old wives’). There is no doubt that your body undergoes some amazing changes, not just physical, but emotional and physiological as well. Aches and pains you have never experienced before, mood swings, anxious moments, fatigue and weight gain are all part of it. Of course proper nutrition and plenty of rest are the order of the day.

Exercise during pregnancy is ideal for women who are considered low risk. Of course before you embark on any type of exercise program you need to check with your doctor. Pregnancy is not the time to be pushing your fitness limits and going for personal bests! If you are currently inactive then a cautious approach will be the healthiest and safest plan. On the other hand if you are currently fit and active then a maintenance program will be appropriate for you. You just need to listen to your body.

In the first trimester of your pregnancy you should have no problem maintaining your regular fitness activities – aerobics, biking, jogging, weight-training, skiing. You may find that you have to modify your activities until fatigue and possible morning sickness subsides. As your energy level returns you can continue to exercise cautiously. High-impact activities and contact sports should be avoided. Non-weight bearing activities such as biking or swimming are low risk and should be able to be maintained throughout the pregnancy.

After your fourth month of pregnancy, you want to try to avoid any exercise that requires you to lie flat on your back on a hard surface, such as sit-ups and some yoga poses. The increasing size and weight of your uterus will press on the large blood vessel that returns blood from your lower body to your heart. There are many alternatives to maintaining core strength other than sit-ups.

Other exercises that should be avoided during this time include anything that requires sudden twisting movements or places excessive stress on the joints, as they soften somewhat to aid the birthing process. You will find too that your centre of gravity is compromised so balancing exercises may be a new challenge.

My personal suggestions for your ‘pregnancy fitness program’ – lots of walking and stretching exercises; weight-training with very light weight (just enough to provide minimal resistance and maintain muscles tone); biking and swimming or water exercises; practise your kegel exercises; frequent snacks; drink lots of water. Keep ‘moving’ right up until the end, it will help during labour and delivery. Oh and guys, shoulder, back and leg massages frequently will also help (and keep you in the good books!!). As for when you can start back after your bundle of joy arrives – rule of thumb is six weeks, but your body will let you know.

If you are interested in know about anything discussed in this column, or you have an idea or topic you would like to see addresses, please send your request to fitmom@hotmail.com.