I was discussing with a pregnant client, encouraging her to ask her doctor before embarking on any prenatal exercises I was recommending, and she said something like:
‘Hmm, in this Nigeria, no doctor will encourage any pregnant woman to work out ooo’
While we laughed over it, I knew it was not exactly true. In my first and second pregnancies, both doctors I had actually encouraged us to engage in light exercises.
However, not too many would take the time to tell you what exactly to do, and what guidelines and precautions to follow, seeing as that is outside their scope of work. However, this article would suggest five things that every pregnant woman who wants to exercise must note as she gets on this lifestyle, whether in her first or third trimester.
First, talk to your doctor. This goes without saying of course. It doesn’t matter if you have been a previous exerciser or one who just wants to pick up this healthy routine in pregnancy, having an examination to preclude any health conditions that may lead to any unfortunate complications or loss is highly recommended and is wise. Once your doctor has given you his go-ahead, then the next thing to do is to determine if you would be working out indoors or outdoors.
This is very important for ventilation purposes and then your outfit choice. Internal body temperature rises in pregnancy and working out naturally increases body heat. Sweating by evaporation is the only way to dissipate all that heat so make sure you are not overly covered up and are also working out in a place that allows for natural cross ventilation or a source of artificial cooling, like an air conditioner or fan.
For example, if you are working out outside and the weather starts out cold, it is best to wear an extra layer of clothing that can be taken off if it gets too hot, instead of a single outfit worn in consideration of the initial cold weather. For example, if you are wearing a sweatshirt or hoodie, have a tank top underneath so that you can easily peel off a layer, throw it on your hips and keep going.
If your body temperature goes beyond 39 degrees Celsius for over ten minutes, it can affect the fetus and in the first trimester, it may even lead to a miscarriage. It may also make the mother dehydrated and lead to fainting spells or dizziness, which can all be easily avoidable.
This is the same reason why hot saunas, hot tubs, hot showers and the likes are not recommended in pregnancy. As much as possible, keep the body’s external temperature cool to balance the heat generation within. It is also important that you stay hydrated often when exercising as this helps significantly to reduce the internal body heat.
Temperature sorted, the third recommendation would be to establish your rest intervals while you work out. If for instance, you are working out to a video led by a pregnant Instructor, it is OK to rest even when she is still working out. This is because the instructor most likely a professional has more endurance than you, and so while her heart rate is well within safe limits, your own has shot off the roof, and if you ever feel breathless or unable to hold a regular clear conversation, you are going too hard and you must pause and take a break.
While non-pregnant exercisers are usually encouraged to take what is called ‘active rests’ where you are still moving about or doing something significantly lower in intensity, pregnant exercisers are allowed complete rest, where you can sit down and even lie down while you catch your breath and lower that heart rate.
Maintaining your increased heart rate is good for others especially those on a weight loss journey as a high and sustained heart rate means more calories are being burned, but the goal in pregnancy is strength and fitness for the journey, Labour and delivery, not weight loss so let the heart rate drop completely if possible before going on.
As a bonus recommendation, I would say that a healthy prenatal snack can also be taken before your workout. Make sure it is not too heavy so it doesn’t hinder your workout, but you can have an apple, some crackers or even a cup of low fat or Greek yoghurt before you begin.
All the best as you work out safely through your pregnant journey.
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