What cardiovascular (CV) exercise is best and safest during pregnancy and why should I bother?!

You may well be feeling a bit pukey and/or constipated (the delights of pregnancy) if you are still in trimester 1, but hopefully that will start to getting better over the next couple of weeks. This feature is all about cardiovascular exercise. If you can face some it may well help ease those pesky pregnancy symptoms.

Cardio exercise is important for keeping your heart and lungs fit and healthy. You’ll need a good level of fitness and endurance for labour (one of the most demanding things your body will ever go through!) and looking after a new baby and the rest of the family (and yourself of course!) Why would you NOT want to improve your cardio fitness?

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Can I carry on running throughout my pregnancy?


Lucie half marathon

Why should I carry on running in pregnancy?

 Running is fantastic cardiovascular exercise and will help keep your heart and lungs fit and strong. In addition to all the usual benefits from exercising during pregnancy:

  • A shorter labour, with less likelihood of complications – I had quite enjoyable pregnancies with no sick days from work, straightforward and short labours (both under 5 hours) vaginal deliveries and a very quick recovery, was active within a couple of days!
  • Less likely to suffer from nausea and morning sickness
  •  Improved core strength and stability
  • A stronger back and reduction in back pain
  • Better posture
  •  Stronger pelvic floors
  • Better circulation, less likely to suffer from varicose veins, swelling and high blood pressure
  • Stronger bones
  • Avoid excessive weight gain and easier to get back into shape after the birth
  • More energy and self-confidence – lift your mood and feel great!
  • Strengthen the muscles used in childbirth
  •  It will help you sleep
  • Improved cardio-vascular fitness and muscle tone
  • Lessen the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes

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. With running having some time outdoors and time to yourself are also great feel-good benefits.

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 have 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.

I carried on running…but was always safe and sensible

 I love all kinds of exercise, especially aerobics and other fitness classes, but running really is my all time fave and I ran up to the end of the second trimester with both of my pregnancies. After that it began to feel a bit uncomfortable, but that’s just me. Every woman is different and should listen to their own body. Some women continue to run throughout their pregnancies right to the end and some just don’t feel right running from the outset. Do what feels right for you. I also did my first full marathon when my first baby was 8 months old!

 Here are some points about running safely and sensibly during pregnancy:

  •  Avoid overheating
  • Eat before and after exercise, (a snack, not a three course meal) around an hour either side should do it
  • Wear a good bra and trainers when you are working out
  • Be aware of running conditions – look after your personal safety, stick to well-lit areas and avoid rough or hilly terrain
  • Your pre-pregnancy exercise and fitness levels will determine what level you can exercise at
  • Remember your pelvic floor exercises (even if you are having a c-section) as running does put extra pressure on these muscles
  • Adapt your running plan as your pregnancy progresses, see below
  • Warm up and cool down gradually
  • Stretch the muscles you used in your workout when you get home (all the big leg muscles)
  • Try to maintain a good posture (all the time!)
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Take care not to overstretch or push yourself too hard; the hormone relaxin makes your joints more prone to injury

Advice for running throughout your pregnancy: 

running in the first trimester

 During trimester one you can carry on as usual, as long as the intensity is not very high (i.e. intervals, sprinting), the duration isn’t too long (i.e. longer than 90 minutes) and you are not working harder than what you have been used to.

running in the second trimester

During trimester two you should start decreasing your intensity and duration once it starts to feel like it is becoming harder. Remember, you should be comfortably be able to maintain a conversation when you are working out. Your body is changing and although you can carry on running (although it should be ‘jogging’ – not too fast!) you should gradually start to adapt your workouts.

 running in the third trimester

During trimester three you may be able to carry on jogging if it still feels ok, but make sure you listen to your body and move on to a lower impact activity if it doesn’t feel right. Your bump may make you feel unbalanced or you may have some pelvic aches. Cross training, power walking, cycling and swimming are all great alternatives. If you do continue to jog then, once again, work at a comfortable intensity for a sensible duration and maybe build in some walk/jog sessions, alternating between each for five minutes at a time.

 Safety comes first:

In summary, if your pregnancy is low risk and you feel fine, don’t be frightened to continue something you enjoy, but remember running is high impact and you may feel more comfortable moving to gentler activities later on in your pregnancy with a view to taking up running again once you have had your baby. It’s up to you – every woman is different. Definitely ignore anyone that tries to criticise you jogging with a bump; we need to change the way people perceive pregnant women – start the revolution!

More about running in pregnancy here

Inspired to cycle by the Olympic women? Great for pregnancy!

 I have just been reading this article in the Telegraph: Victoria Pendleton inspires British women to get in the saddle

It s great news that women have been encouraged to get on their bikes after watching our fabulous UK women in the velodrome! Contrary to popular belief cycling won’t give you huge thighs (unless you train them to get huge a la Chris Hoy!) In fact cycling will give you great tone in your legs if you do it regularly as it works all the main muscles groups including your quads (front thighs), calfs and glutes (for a peachy bottom – look at Victoria’s!)

If you cycle regularly you will burn calories (and lose weight if that is your goal – maybe as a new mum), improve your cardiovascular fitness, increase your muscles strength and tone and feel fantastic – plus all that fresh air will do you the world of good!

Cycling is a great exercise for pregnancy as your body weight is supported. If you haven’t cycled before then check with your GP or midwife that your pregnancy is low risk, but if you love cycling there is no need to stop. You control the pace and choose the route to suit your stage of pregnancy. You may want to switch to a static bike in the last couple of months if you start to feel unstable (your centre of gravity won’t be what you are used to!) or switch to another activity which isn’t so up close and personal with your (maybe suffering) ladies bits. However, if you cycle to work you’ll probably want to keep going as long as possible to save on bus fares!

The the CTC – the national cyclists’ organisation – gives some great advice:

“Obviously you should minimise the risk of falling off: cut down on those off-road descents and don’t race-train in a pack. Be vigilant about avoiding dehydration and be aware that your joints will be a bit more elastic due to changes in collagen, so take note of any joint pain.

Some general hints include:

  • Accommodate a big belly by raising the handlebars and perhaps temporarily fitting a taller stem.
  • If changes in posture are a pain in the butt, try a wider, more padded saddle.
  • In the later stages, be aware that your heart and lungs are working harder than usual. If you’re too out of breath to talk, slow down.
  • You may need to fit lower gears to the bike, or walk the hills.
  • Use well-padded gloves and shift your hand positions frequently, as you’ll be resting more weight on your wrists.”

In summary – there are so many benefits to staying fit and healthy in pregnancy including more endurance and energy for labour and birth. If you can keep yourself active and mobile you will feels loads better. Just always remember to listen to your body and stop if anything doesn’t feel right. Apart from that – on yer bike!!

ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET. NO EXCUSES. SHOULD BE LAW.

Benefits of water/aqua aerobics during pregnancy

I came across this fab web page today from the Jagran Post, which talks all about aqua/water aerobics during pregnancy. It is a great exercise for all fitness levels, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.  It reads…..

You can gain a lot of health benefits by exercising during pregnancy as it lessens various complications. Some of the benefits of water aerobics during pregnancy are relief from various discomforts of pregnancy without putting too much strain on the limbs. You do need to check with your health care provider for the ideal method but the low impact exercise that water aerobics provide is recommendable if you do not have problem with staying in water.

If you have a problem with exercising in summer months, the water can be a great place to stay away from the heat. If you are going through the cold season, water aerobics can be performed indoors. Staying in water helps to take the pressure away from the belly that is growing. Not only that, you also feel refreshed by performing these exercises.

A recent research has shown that there is and additional benefit in performing water aerobics during pregnancy. The study was undertaken in Brazil in which the women engaging in water aerobics from the middle of pregnancy till the end needed lesser pain medications during labour than a control group. They were required to work for three days in every week.

Women who perform water aerobics may avoid getting swollen knees and ankles and yet get a workout. It is a good way of improving the strength of your stomach and preventing the problem of spider veins on the legs. The low impact in these exercises results in these benefits.

The refreshing effect of water has many benefits. Water aerobics helps to control morning sickness, balance the mood and enhance the energy level.

Water aerobics can be customised to suit different stages of pregnancy. The exercises involved include breathing techniques that women learn during antenatal classes.

You naturally want to be in water when pregnant. With water aerobics, you also give your body a great workout. As you carry an additional 35 to 50 kgs during pregnancy, being in the pool relieves you of this strain. It feels a lot lighter in water.

With these workouts in water, you can expect to get the best possible exercise for maintaining your health. It would be advisable that you take the advice of your health care provider before starting these workouts. There are some conditions in which these should not be performed. Moreover, you also need to be careful in performing these exercises and ensure that you do not put any strain on your stomach or excessive pressure on your back.

Courtesy: Onlymyhealth

Why pregnant women and new mums need cardio

Cardio exercise is important for keeping your heart and lungs fit and healthy. You’ll need a good level of fitness and endurance for labour (one of the most demanding things your body will ever go through!) and looking after a new baby and the rest of the family (and yourself of course!) Why would you NOT want to improve your cardo fitness so you dont get puffed out at the slightest thing?

If you can’t fit in three ‘proper’ cardio sessions try to incorporate cardio activity into your everyday life through brisk walking, taking the stairs, dancing, playing with your kids or skipping the car and generally making active choices.

If you can get active for at least half an hour between five and seven times a week this will significantly improve your general fitness. Ideally you should do three ‘proper’ cardio workouts for at least 30 minutes, for example: jogging, cycling, swimming, cross-training or an exercise class. Two slightly longer sessions (45 minutes+) would be another way to fit cardio in if this suits you better. However, sometimes life gets in the way – don’t give yourself a hard time if you are having a ‘tired’ day (see everyday exercise above). But don’t lie to yourself, either; the results you get represent the effort you put in and there are no short cuts.

Chances are that if you just get on and do your workout you’ll feel loads better afterwards – glowing and with a sense of pride and achievement. Natural endorphins will give you a fantastic high.

The 3-plan gives you lots of ideas to fit your cardio around your busy lifestyle.