Are you pregnant? Congrats! And while you’re probably getting advice from seemingly everyone under the sun — parents, in-laws, colleagues, friends — there’s probably very little in the way of how to exercise and stay fit during this important season of your life.
For mums who are already active, figuring out how to scale and modify your current routine might seem uncertain, and for mums who don’t currently have a fitness regimen, the idea of starting an exercise program while pregnant might feel daunting.
The good news is, scientists and perinatal fitness experts agree – exercise during pregnancy is crucial for a healthy mum and baby. Mothers who exercise during pregnancy report less back pain and have a decreased risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, and there is no evidence that exercise has negative or adverse maternal or perinatal outcomes.
And while that’s all good news, the reality is it can still be difficult to find motivation and time to exercise while dealing with the myriad symptoms of pregnancy, including fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and of course – a constantly changing centre of gravity! With all that considered, here are the top tips that helped me stay active through all of my pregnancies.
Start small, really small
I always say, “doing anything is better than doing nothing.” If you’re feeling tired and sick, can you manage a five-minute stretch before bed? If your legs are getting swollen, can you get outside for a short walk, or take a quick dip in the pool for some relief? Even the smallest movements are beneficial and will help you establish an exercise habit that can last until the day you deliver.
Employ the help of a coach
A lot of mums stop exercising during pregnancy simply because they aren’t sure what’s safe to do. As a general rule, what you were doing regularly before pregnancy, you can continue doing in pregnancy. But when it comes to specific exercise modifications, pro guidance on pelvic floor engagement, and a watchful eye on how to adjust movement patterns for your changing body – working with a certified perinatal coach is your best bet to ensure a safe fitness journey from conception to delivery.
Consider what you “should” do rather than what you “can” do
When I work with pregnant women who are already athletic, they often insist that they “can” do a certain exercise without modifications. I ask these high-performing mamas-to-be: but should you do it? During pregnancy, the goal is not to progress, it is to maintain. Releasing the expectations of your previous exercise program and focusing on what feels right for your current body is a hard but worthwhile mindset shift for already-active mums.
Know your limits
Similar to my point above, it is never more crucial to listen to and surrender to your body than during pregnancy. There will be days when your body is begging for rest, feeling overworked, or demanding more fuel. Listen to it. Pregnancy is not a time to push past your comfort zone or test your limits; in fact, it is the time to embrace only what feels strong and comfortable in your body, and leave the rest for another season.
Remember your why
Finally, don’t forget the fundamental reason for staying fit and strong during your pregnancy: to safely deliver a healthy baby. On the days when getting moving feels tough, consider that any form of prenatal exercise reduces the risk of chronic disease not only for you but for your growing baby as well – and those benefits extend into early childhood, too.
Staying fit at any stage of life can be tough – but being active during pregnancy doesn’t have to be intimidating. Starting small, getting proper guidance, and keeping a positive and realistic outlook on the process will help you safely and happily navigate your prenatal fitness journey – and prepare you for a stronger postpartum as well.
Amanda Lim is a certified fitness & nutrition coach, perinatal specialist, and mother of two. American by birth but Singaporean at heart, she enjoys hot yoga & CrossFit – followed by a big bowl of laksa. You can find her at @coachamandalim and coachamandalim.com.