The benefits of exercising during and after pregnancy

In the past many women have been unsure about whether it is safe to exercise during pregnancy or not and have found it hard to get clear advice. These days it is widely accepted that not only is exercise safe during pregnancy, but it has a wealth of benefits and is the perfect opportunity to make regular exercise a part of your life.

The benefits of regular exercise may be…

  • A shorter labour and better endurance, with less likelihood of complications
  • Less likelihood of suffering from nausea and morning sickness
  • Improved core strength and stability
  • A stronger back and reduction in back pain
  • Better posture
  • Stronger pelvic floor muscles
  • Better circulation – less likelihood of suffering from varicose veins, swelling and high blood pressure
  • Stronger bones
  • Less excessive weight gain
  • More energy and self-confidence – lift your mood and feel great! Stronger muscles (including the ones you use in childbirth)
  • Greater body adaptation to pregnancy
  • Ability to get in touch with your body, giving you more confidence about labour and recovery
  • Better-quality sleep
  • Improved cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone
  • Less likelihood of developing gestational diabetes
  • Getting back into shape as a new mum more easily
  • Boosting your immune system
  • Helping to keep baby blues at bay
  • Some ‘head space’ and time for yourself

With all of those benefits, why would you not exercise?! After pregnancy you will retain a lot of these benefits, in addition to finding it easier to lose excess weight and tone up.

Not sure what to do? Check out my 3-Plan (to be released early 2012) for a complete set of pregnancy and postnatal exercises.

Why pregnant ladies and new mums should work out with weights

Resistance training makes your muscles fitter, stronger and more effective and it can be provided by weights, bands or just your body weight. Some people find the term ‘resistance training’ quite mystifying, even off-putting, but it is key to helping improve muscular fitness and is extremely important in everyday life, for lifting and carrying things and performing day-to-day tasks. Without doing some exercise like this it will be really hard for you to get a really lean, toned bod.

The benefits of resistance training include:

  • Increases lean muscle, which requires more energy to maintain. It will increase your metabolism, meaning you are burning more calories, even when you are asleep (what could be easier?)
  • Muscle burns fat
  • Decreases your risk of developing osteoporosis by increasing bone density
  • Makes you stronger
  • Improves your balance, flexibility and core strength
  • Improves your posture
  • Makes you feel good and less stressed
  • Improves your cardiovascular fitness, with all the associated benefits
  • Shapes and sculpts your body – you’ll look more toned and feel great
  • Increases strength, meaning you have less chance of getting injuries.
If you are pregnant or a new mum and aren’t sure what to do in terms of working out with weights, you can find lots of simple safe exercises out there – squats, lunges, bicep curls, you know the sort of thing.
Watch this space for the launch of my book, the 3-Plan (coming in early 2012) which has over 75 unique, effective exercises, split into sections to be safe for each stage of your pregnancy and post-natal recovery.

It’s cold, wet and windy: I couldn’t possibly exercise!…..

Nonsense! Unless we are in the middle of a tornado (which we haven’t been far away from in recent days) there is no excuse not to wrap up and carry on with your normal activities. Wear a jacket, gloves and hat and make sure you’ve got some reflective strips if you are running. If you are going to the gym or exercise class there’s certainly no excuse; it will be fine when you get there, the only problem is that motivation on cold, dark evenings!

If you couldn’t possible face venturing out then invest in a good exercise DVD, jump around to some music in your bedroom or do a workout with some dumbbells or a resistance bands.

Whatever you do try and get your heart rate up and a bit of a sweat on. In the run up to Christmas it is easy to make excuses about exercise – “I’ll get back to it in the new year”, but don’t forget – calories in and calories out need to marry up or you’ll end up a new year porker!

You’ll feel great when are you are done and all ready for those gorgeous festive frocks.

If you do make exercise a regular part of your routine then don’t beat yourself up about the occasional rest; this is the luxury of someone who makes keeping fit part of their lifestyle – there are some days when only a glass of wine and a mince pie will do, go to the gym tomorrow 🙂

Merry Christmas x

Running in pregnancy

One of the most common things I hear is that it is not safe to run during pregnancy. There is no one-size-fits-all response to this. It largely depends on your pre-pregnancy fitness level and running experience.

If you have never been a runner do not start during pregnancy. If you love running, then pleeeeeeeeze don’t give it up if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy!

If you have only done a little bit of running I would suggest keeping it at a moderate intensity (jogging rather than running) and no more than 30 minutes a couple of times a week. If you haven’t done any running for at least a couple of months then do something else. If it feels at all uncomfortable then do something else.

If you are an experienced runner then there is no reason you cannot carry on running during your pregnancy. Stick to the safety advice about overheating, clothing, hydration and location.

Getting started with exercise again as a new mum

Try to get started with some small steps as soon as possible and you will reap the rewards later – that squidgy belly and those extra wobbly bits are only temporary!

You don’t have to be away from your baby; in fact your baby will love some fresh air if you can get out and do some brisk walking, aim to build up to an hour each day during the first fortnight if you feel up to it.

For the first couple of weeks focus on those all important pelvic floor and tummy muscles – these are the ones that have taken the biggest hit through pregnancy and childbirth.

Give these muscles a few minutes of attention a day with abdominal pull ins (holding your tummy in tight then releasing) and pelvic floor squeezes, 50-100 of each if you can and try and make this a permanent part of your routine for the future.