Staying fit and healthy when pregnant can be tricky. Not the least because it’s sometimes hard to know what you should and SHOULDN’T be doing.
Healthy Mummy Women’s & Children’s Fitness Expert Nikki Boswell has filled us in, answering all your questions on how to stay fit safely during pregnancy.
Nikki took part in a live Q&A session on our Facebook page, answering the questions of our members as best she could. Join the Facebook group to be part of future Q&A sessions with everyone from midwives, personal trainers, nutritionists and our very own Healthy Mummy founder, Rhian Allen.
The Healthy Mummy pregnancy Q&A session with fitness expert Nikki Boswell
Q: What are some good stretch ideas to do when pregnant to help with common aches and pains like hip pain, swollen ankles and legs etc?
A: There are so many wonderful stretches out there to help with aches and pains. I like to start at the feet and legs and work all the way up to the neck. Try some hamstring stretches (simply reaching your toes is a good one) to help with back pain and pressing your palms towards the floor and tipping your head to the opposite side to release your neck.
Placing one foot onto the opposite knee (while sitting on the floor) is also a good way to release the glutes, hips and hamstrings (it’s one of my faves).
Q: Could you give us a recap on what are the key positions and movements to avoid and why during pregnancy?
A: Sure, the very quick version is to just keep doing what you are doing – that is, pregnancy is a time to maintain fitness and prepare for birth not time to achieve new fitness goals.
Avoid lying on your back after the first trimester, (including crunches) and avoid exercises that have the risk of physical injury such as high impact sports, be aware of your changing centre of gravity and work within its limits, listen to your body and rest when you need.
Q: I have been really ill for the past two weeks and have therefore done no exercise at all. I was just wondering whether it will be ok for me to get back to being fairly active after being ill, or if I have to slowly build back up again so I don’t shock my body? Hope that makes sense.
A: You really just need to listen to your body. Without knowing your training history, pregnancy history etc I would simply say there is no need to rush, let your body get back to good health and just do some light exercise as you feel up to it.
Q: What are some steady workouts I can do to make labour a little smoother?
A: Without knowing exactly what your gym routine consists of the general recommendations are to keep your heart rate below 75% of your pre pregnancy max and keep your weights about 40 -60% if your 1RM and focus on higher reps (12 -15). Yoga is such a great exercise of strength and toning too – it really allows you to modify for both pregnancy and your own abilities
Q: A few ladies over the last week or so have asked about exercise after a c-section when to start and what to start with etc?
A: After a c-section get your doctor’s approval. There are many variables with pregnancy and recovery that need to be accounted for. Speak to your medical team at your 6 week check up for advice.
Q: I am fascinated by how much my heart rate rises with such small movements in the exercises I do during my Healthy Mummy yoga sessions. Can you explain how it is that these beautiful yoga type moves get my blood pumping so effectively?
A: I remember in the early stages of my first pregnancy being completely exhausted by things that I had previously done with so much ease! It’s amazing and it’s largely to do with the changes in hormones and blood volume. I have heard the analogy that being pregnant is physically equivalent to climbing a mountain. Yoga is great as the gentle stretching and strengthening helps strengthen deep stabilising muscles and assists to move nutrients and waste around the body via the lymphatic system.
Q: If I’m finding it hard to fit exercise into every day but I’m pretty active e.g. I walk to the shops, do the housework, run around quite a bit – do these things count as exercise or only setting aside dedicated exercise time should be counted?
A: Those things definitely count as exercise (fortunately for us busy mums/mums-to-be). The pre-pregnancy recommendation of 150 mins moderate activity per week still stands during pregnancy. Your body can’t tell the difference between setting aside 30 mins to walk around the block to increase your heart rate and vacuuming and sweeping for 30 mins at the same intensity.
Q: It was asked today whether riding a stationary bike was okay in pregnancy? I know a bike is a no no for the fall risk but is a stationary one okay?
A: As long as there are no (unusual) risks with the pregnancy it should be fine. Again keep the heart rate at the ideal 75% level, be careful on mounting and dismounting, and if at any stage it becomes uncomfortable or you feel any pain, stop and speak with your doctor.
Q: I went for a light jog on Sunday with my husband and felt some pain after. Almost as though my belly wasn’t supported and was really heavy. Should I be stopping the jogging?
A: I would definitely hold off on the running if you feel pain. Tell your doctor what you experienced and what your concerns are. I know many women can comfortably continue to run/jog through pregnancy but I myself didn’t as I felt it wasn’t right for me.
Q: What would be your top exercise for anyone who is keen to have a healthy pregnancy but previous to conception hasn’t been exercising?
A: My top exercise would be whatever they really enjoy (that is low impact and within their capabilities). I really enjoy swimming; it ticks all the requirements to support a healthy pregnancy being low impact and the water adds extra support around a growing tummy and joints. If swimming laps isn’t your cup of tea you could try water aerobics, aqua zumba or just a gentle paddle or walk in the water to help relieve any aches and pains.
Q: I have always had pretty cruddy upper back strength. I know that it is really important for new mums to build up that strength to support carrying a baby and breastfeeding. What are some good exercises I can be doing to build up these important muscles?
A: Again hitting the pool is great! But there are so many options. I am also a big fan of yoga (if you couldn’t tell – although I don’t do nearly enough myself). Your body weight is a great, versatile resistance that can be used in so many ways and modified to support pregnancy. I know it sounds strange but crawling or anything from a crawling (neutral hands and knees) position is great for back/core strength as well as the upper body.