Exercise and Pregnancy
Exercising during pregnancy can help keep the body strong and reduce lower back pain as well as improve the pelvic floor, decrease the risk of gestational diabetes, help to control weight gain and improve recovery after birth. Cardiovascular training as well as pelvic floor, core, lower and upper body strengthening are all an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout pregnancy.
Due to the risk of gestational diabetes and potential risk of excessive weight gain, cardiovascular exercise is an important component of maintaining a healthy heart and lungs for both yourself and your baby. If you are only just starting cardiovascular exercise for the first time then it is recommended you start at a lower intensity, such as walking at a pace where you can comfortably talk. If you were previously a keen jogger then you can continue to run/jog as long as it is comfortable. Avoid over exerting yourself and raising your core body temperature and ensure your abdomen, pelvis and back feel comfortable while exercising.
Pelvic Floor and Core Strengthening
The pelvic floor helps maintain continence during and post pregnancy as well as assisting in good pelvic posture. Additionally, the deep core muscles help prevent or decrease lower back pain, improve posture and increase recovery after pregnancy. Cues for activating the pelvic floor and deep core muscles include pulling your naval in towards your spine and up and activating the muscles as if you are stopping yourself from going to the bathroom. During pregnancy, avoid strong abdominal work after around 20 weeks and avoid lying on your back during your core exercises. Instead activate the core while seated or on a swiss ball or even 4-point kneeling.
Lower and Upper Limb Strengthening
Lower limb exercises help improve pelvic stability and decrease lower back pain while upper body strengthening is important for after birth where repetitive carrying and lifting of your new baby can lead to overuse injuries of the shoulders. Strengthening the gluteus medius muscle with hip abduction exercises such as clams can help increase pelvic stability while upper body exercises can include a wide range of exercises such as overhead presses, wall push-ups and rotator cuff strengthening.