Here are some potential benefits and practical implications of exercising before, during and after pregnancy.
A pregnant mother who exercised regularly before the conception of her baby and continues to exercise throughout her pregnancy usually feels better, has more energy and suffers less of the common complaints of pregnancy such as backache, constipation and fatigue. She is often also better able to control weight gain and usually regains her ‘figure’ quite soon after the birth of the baby.
Pregnant woman should however base her optimum exercise levels on her pre-pregnancy fitness and activity levels. Pregnancy is not the time for a marathon or to try and lose excess weight. The time to start exercising and training is before but not after conception and pregnancy.
A mother who is fit and strong is usually better able to cope with labour. Strong abdominal and well-toned pelvic floor muscles aid the expulsion of the baby during delivery.
Exercise such as walking, jogging, tennis and aerobic dance, in which the body weight must be carried and is added to the weight of the foetus, may be more stressful than exercising such as cycling and swimming where the body weight is supported.
The experts suggest that a pregnant woman should warm up and stretch gently for about five to ten minutes, then exercise for fifteen minutes and undertake a ten to fifteen ‘cool down’ period during which she stretches gently until her heartbeat is back to normal. Exercising three to five times a week, at a heart rate not exceeding 140 to 150 beats per minute will be more than adequate. Exercise should be gentler during the last three months.