Exercise guidelines for moms-to-be

Angie Lander is a Biokineticist and the owner of Lander & Pursad Biokinetics at the Sport Science Institute of SA, Newlands , Cape Town. She specialises in orthopaedic and neural rehabilitation as well as pre and postnatal exercise programmes.

She recommends the following guidelines for women who plan to exercise during their pregnancy:

  • Warming up and cooling down are very important. Start slow and build up to more demanding exercises.
  • Regular exercise (at least 3 times week) is preferable to intermittent activity.
  • You should be able to carry a conversation comfortably while exercising.
  • Don’t try to do too much and stop immediately if you feel very tired, short of breath or dizzy.
  • Strenuous activities should not exceed 15 minutes in duration. Strenuous exercise for long periods of time may increase the maternal body temperature which will influence the foetal temperature. 
  • Use a rating of perceived exertion scale from 6 to 20 to determine your level of effort during exercise, with 6 being no effort and 20 being maximum exertion.  You should not exceed 15 on the RPE scale which is “hard”.
  • Adequate nutrition and hydration of the mother during exercise is essential. Water should be ingested liberally (to thirst) before, during, and after exercise.
  • Kilojoule intake should meet the extra energy needs of pregnancy. Snack at least 15 minutes before exercise.
  • Any exercise that has the potential for trauma to the abdomen should be avoided i.e. horse riding
  • Reduce the amount of time spent exercising in the supine position (on your back) after the 5th month of gestation.
  • Exercises that employ the Valsalva maneuver (holding and maintaining your breath) should be avoided. These types of exercises can increase your blood pressure.
  • Avoid exercising in hot, humid weather or if you have a fever.
  • Do not exercise with a core body temperature of 37.5 degrees C or higher.
  • Avoid ballistic movements (jerky or bouncy movements), and movements that require jarring or rapid changes in direction.
  • Wear a good fitted bra to protect your enlarged breasts.
  • Gradually rise from the floor to prevent orthostatic hypotension (sudden and dramatic decrease in blood pressure).
  • Activity should be stopped if any unusual symptoms appear.
  • It is not appropriate to initiate a new exercise programme, particularly in the 1st and 3rd trimesters, or to intensify training during pregnancy.  Recent data suggests that provided there is sufficient medical screening and supervision pregnant women can benefit from initiating an exercise programme.  The most appropriate time to increase intensity and duration of training is during the 2nd trimester.
Do you have any exercise tips for pregnant women?

Read more on exercising while pregnant:

Exercising for two

Exercise guidelines for moms-to-be

Benefits of exercising during pregnancy

Exercises you should do during pregnancy

Exercise guidelines: what you need to know

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