A common question that osteopaths and physiotherapists are asked by pregnant women is: ‘Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy and if so how much?’ The truth is there is no simple one size fits all answer. Why would there be when every woman and every pregnancy is unique. That said, there are a few guidelines.
Women of normal weight with single uncomplicated gestations can safely perform 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity, low impact, aerobic exercise, 3-4 times per week. This level of exercise is associated with a higher incidence of vaginal delivery and a lower incidence of cesarean delivery. It also reduces the incidence of gestational diabetes mellitus and hypertensive disorders. It is not associated with an increased risk of preterm birth. (1)
It is also important to take into consideration the level of exercise under taken prior to pregnancy. Women who have previously exercised regularly and have low risk uncomplicated pregnancies can continue their exercise routines. Women who have been sedentary prior to pregnancy can commence exercise with low intensity activities such as walking or swimming. However, we strongly advise obtaining personalised guidance from a health professional prior to doing so to ensure exercise is safe for mum and bub.
A few words of caution. Exercise is not recommended for women with a number of medical conditions including heart disease, severe high blood pressure, those at risk of premature labour and pre-eclampsia. Women should immediately stop exercising if they experience any abnormal symptoms including abdominal pain, contractions, vaginal bleeding, dizziness or shortness of breath.
There you have it, a few guidelines to get you started. For more information, consult… or speak to your obstetrician. You can read more on this subject at Sports Medicine Australia. (2)
Keep an eye out for Part 2 – the Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy for Mum and Bub