Fitness and pregnancy

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Old wives’ tales are widespread in just about every walk of life. However, pregnancy is surrounded by perhaps the greatest number of old wives’ tales. For example, factors such as sweet vs salty food cravings and whether your partner gains weight as your pregnancy develops have been thought at times throughout history to indicate the sex of the child. Likewise, the fitness levels of women trying to conceive have often been the subject of conjecture, with not all of the commentary being necessarily rooted in science. In these testing times, you may be wondering whether you should wait to try to conceive – or what if you are pregnant and worried about coronavirus? There are many hurdles and considerations to bear in mind. However, returning to fitness, there are sensible things we can learn that avoid the tales and stick to the facts.

Strengthen your core prior to pregnancy

Depending on your starting weight, pregnancy is expected to mean a weight gain of anywhere up to 40 lbs for slender or underweight women, and up to 25 lbs for larger or overweight women (an average weight gain of 25 lbs – 35 lbs is expected). With this extra weight to carry, your lower back and abdominal muscles may become strained, resulting in aches and pains. By strengthening your core prior to pregnancy, you can reduce the impact on your muscular-skeletal frame of carrying the extra weight, which will minimise back pain during and beyond pregnancy.

But don’t fad diet!

Women wishing to hit a target weight before trying to conceive often adhere to a fad diet in an attempt to drop the pounds (without necessarily making any gains in terms of health). Be aware that trying to conceive when your body is undernourished is not recommended.  

Training for the Olympics? Time to lighten the load…

While aerobic exercise improves the performance of your respiratory system, resistance training such as lifting weights stresses the body into laying down more muscle. Muscle building is therefore a form of stress on the body, which could divert energy during pregnancy when all energies should be focused on a normal and healthy pregnancy. The message here is that if you’re a lover of 20k runs, hour-long spin classes, and extensive gym sessions, you should consider altering your exercise regime towards lighter pursuits that don’t leave you out of breath (e.g. walking, hiking, gentle swimming).   

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