So we have been thinking a lot about nutrition and now it’s time to talk EXERCISE. Here are some of the advantages to regular exercise, when you are preparing for conception, during pregnancy, after birth and beyond…
Exercise in preparation for conception
If you are trying to get pregnant, keeping fit and healthy will do wonders not only for your health and well-being, but also for your future growing baby. Exercise can really help boost your chances of conceiving safely.
Many experts encourage women who are planning to conceive or who are pregnant to get more physically active. These include institutions such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, The American College of Sports Medicine, the Association of Chartered Physiotherapist Women’s Health, The Guild of Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Instructors (of which I am a member) and our very own NHS.
It stands to reason that regular workouts will get your body into top baby-making shape. This includes your improving your heart health. Did you know your heart has to pump up to 50% more blood to supply you and baby? Stress will also be considerably reduced, which has been show (via numerous studies) as one of the MAIN blocks to conceiving. Plus regular exercise helps you sleep so much better. What’s more, working out helps maintain a healthy weight right from the start. Being overweight or obese during pregnancy leads to increase risk of complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. During pregnancy is NOT the time to try and lose pounds you aren’t happy with – which is why it is important to start getting fit before you start trying to conceive.
When thinking about trying to get pregnant, a really good idea is to have an exercise routine in place. If healthy habits are already built in, they’ll have an amazing effect on mindset during the later stages of pregnancy. If exercising is already a part of your routine, it will be so much easier to muster the ‘get-up-and-go’ on those days when your energy or willpower are lacking. So when motivation is tough, those pre-pregnancy workouts are well worth the effort.
Once you have conceived there are so many benefits for continuing exercise. It can help reduce the risks of pregnancy complications, together with the severity of common pregnancy symptoms like back pain or nausea. Keeping yourself healthy will also help in boosting your growing baby’s brain development and heart health.
So how much exercise should I be aiming for?
Experts suggest women who are trying to conceive / are already pregnant, should aim for a moderate exercise routine of 30 minutes or more most (if not all) days of the week.
But if you find it hard to get going, remember this; 3 x 10 minutes sessions count as much as one 30 minute workout!
Now that doesn’t sound that bad does it?
Especially when I put it like this… There are the usual options such as aerobic exercise, strength training and yoga. But if these don’t float your boat, then anything active like gardening or housework is good for you and the future of your baby, as long as your heart gets pumping!
Sidebar here… I thoroughly recommend you get yourself a fitness tracker. I love my Tom Tom but here are so many on the market to choose from; Fitbit, Garmin, Misfit Ray etc. Go check them out and have fun whilst you are doing it because it means you’re serious about keeping fit and healthy.
Can I over-exercise when trying to conceive?
To be totally honest, whether we’re trying to get pregnant or not, most of us don’t come anywhere near hitting our exercise limits.
However, if you are a seasoned athlete or on a regular training schedule there could be a possibility that you are getting too much of a good thing. Some research has concluded that five or more hours of high-intensity workouts per week could increase the time it takes for a woman to get pregnant.
Why? Intense training and inadequate nutrition can deplete the body of essential baby-making nutrients, and increase the likelihood of an underweight body mass index (BMI). This in turn can alter the menstrual cycle and even halt ovulation. Examples are gymnasts, long distance runners and ballet dancers. They develop a condition called amenorrhoea, where the monthly period stops. So if you are looking to conceive and not 100% sure if your workout routines are too strenuous, then a visit to your doctor wouldn’t go amiss just to get the all-clear. It’s also advisable to link up with a nutritionist to make double sure you are getting the right nutrition as well.
What workouts are safe when you are trying to conceive?
Conception can happen without you realising it – and you might not know you are pregnant in the first few weeks. This is why you are better off sticking with the workouts that are safe for both pre-conception and early pregnancy.
My first bit of advise for working out before or during pregnancy, is to listen to your body. Rest as and when you need to, and keep yourself hydrated.
Once you receive the happy news you are pregnant some exercises will become off-limits. But don’t worry, as you will be able to go back to our pre-pregnancy exercise routine after the birth and when you get the all-clear around 6-8 weeks (as and when time allows).
Here are some examples that are considered safe when trying to get pregnant, or if you are already:
- Running and walking. Obvious choices but both are excellent cardiovascular workouts, particularly as no equipment is required. (Apart from your beloved trainers – thought this could be a very valid excuse for a new pair!) Walking is safe right up until delivery. If you are an experienced runner it is perfectly safe to continue as long as your doctor gives the OK. Ensure you listen to your body and stick to level terrain.
- Strength training. I use to love this before and during my pregnancy. During my second ‘dance around the baby block’, I was teaching Body Pump classes right up to delivery. Weight training helps to build muscle tone, coupled with bone strength. Two vital ingredients to keep you in top shape before and during pregnancy.
- CrossFit and HIIT. Cardio and strength combined will keep you in great shape to get ready for the 9 months ahead.
- Pilates, barre and yoga. This trio are perfect if trying to conceive as they all build strength, balance, endurance and muscle tone. These components will help you with your conception efforts. Yoga, in particular, will help you relax and destress, which is especially important when you are trying to conceive. Like with any exercise, being mindful of what your limits are is especially important. Any injuries picked up may thwart our efforts in trying to get pregnant.
If at any time your menstrual cycle becomes erratic, make sure you check in with your doctor. Keeping your period on track makes it a whole lot easier for conception to happen!
So there you have it. Top tips on what exercise to do to help you on the road to conception. Good luck and have fun!
Happy Body, Happy Mind, Happy You!