Fitness during pregnancy often becomes a question mark for mums-to-be worried about putting themselves, and their bumps, in harm’s way. But maintaining a suitable and safe exercise routine is beneficial for both you and your precious cargo.
“Pregnant women who exercise regularly are less likely to develop pregnancy-induced hypertension, pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. They are less likely to have complications in labour and are more likely stay within the healthy weight-gain range of 12 to 15kg,” says author and columnist, Dr Ginni Mansberg. “There’s also less chance of having a very large baby, which is linked to congenital abnormalities, and of the child developing diabetes, heart disease or obesity later in life.”

So here are a few ideas to help you keep fit and feel great all the way to 40 weeks….

Swimming – The Benefits:
Water is the one place where you’re going to feel light and can stay cool. Swimming will keep you fit without the high impact of other exercises. It uses all the muscles in your body, keeping them flexible and strong, and takes the load off your joints.
Recommend: Do laps two to four times a week (aim for 30-minute sessions). You can swim right up until the birth without needing to adjust your routine or swim strokes.

Pilates – The Benefits:
Pilates focuses on core strength and postural awareness. As its low impact, it’s unlikely that you’ll overheat or raise your heart rate above 140 beats per minute, which is very important when pregnant.
Recommend: Today there is pretty much a Pilates studio in every suburb. Also, most gyms offer Pilates classes, or you can ask your doctor or midwife about specialised prenatal classes in your area. Try for two, hour-long sessions a week.

Yoga – The Benefits:
Yoga is great for increasing flexibility, toning muscles in the pelvis and uterus and improving circulation and posture. Building strength and balance, it may even prevent some pregnancy aches. It also has a therapeutic benefit, teaching techniques that can assist with relaxation and pain management, such as breathing control.
Recommend: Check out local gyms, health clubs and yoga studios for more info.
Specific prenatal and Mum & Bub Yoga classes are more prevalent also.
Aim for two to three sessions weekly – be careful though, as there are some positions to avoid, such as the ‘boat’ pose and inversions. It’s also recommended to avoid Bikram Yoga as its ideally practiced in a room heated to 40.6°C with a humidity of 40 percent.

Walking – The Benefits:
Walking is one of the best cardio exercises during pregnancy, so walk around the block, walk on the treadmill or walk on your lunch break. It’ll boost your energy levels, improve your endurance and keep you fit without placing a lot of pressure on your ankles or knees.
Recommend: Start by walking for 30 minutes at a time, threetimes a week. Build up to 30 to 60 minute sessions, four to five times a week. Grab your partner or a friend and make it a social event. Walking is a great stress buster, and if you can get into the habit you’ll be more likely to grab the pram and get out and about when your baby arrives. Keep it at a moderate pace and always have a bottle of water on hand, as you can dehydrate quickly while pregnant.

Pelvic Floor Exercises
Your pelvic floor muscles, slung from the pubic bone at the front of your body to your tail bone, support your bladder, bowel, uterus and vagina. They also control bladder and bowel function. When pregnant, hormones cause the muscles to stretch, so you may experience a degree of incontinence during or after pregnancy. Down the track, a weak or damaged pelvic floor could lead to incontinence or more severe (but less common), the bits it supports ‘dropping out’.

Protect your pelvic floor, starting now!
Imagine that you’re trying to stop passing wind and urine at the same time. Hold for three to five seconds. Do ten sets, three to five times a day.
Sound easy? There’s a catch:
You can’t pull in your stomach, squeeze your legs together, tighten your buttocks or hold your breath. If you’re doing it right, you should feel your pelvic floor muscles lift, pulling up and in around your front and back passages.

Source: Practical Parenting Magazine – May 2011