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When is the best time to start working out in pregnancy?

Photo: Fit pregnancy

Working out in pregnancy has benefits that go beyond pregnancy, but for most women, knowing when to start, and what to do to ensure that there are no risks to both mother and baby poses a great challenge.

It is heart warming to hear questions like this, as it indicates a willingness to actually exercise while pregnant, an unpopular activity in Africa.

Now, to answer this question in a general sense, the best time to start working out is even before you realise that you are pregnant.

Exercising is a way of life that should be encouraged for all, so upon realizing that conception has taken place, modifications to the workout routine should be implemented.

For example, Cardio exercises, the kind that speed up your heart rate, must be modified to be less intense.

Skipping for example, one of the best cardiovascular exercises out there, should be stopped completely as all that high impact jumping and contact with the ground is not the safest thing a pregnant woman should be involved in.

However, time on the treadmill can go on, but this time, with less speed and more rest.

Heart rate should always be monitored, not necessarily with a Heart Rate Monitor like the fitness trackers and watches as there are no universal accepted standards for prenatal workout.

140bpm (beats per minute), the standard that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG) recommended in the past for heart rate may work for one but be too intense or slow for another, so it has been rescinded.

You should listen to your body, and stop when you are running out of breath.

The ‘Talk test’ is a great ‘Heart rate Monitor’, so if you are unable to carry out coherent conversation, you are most likely going too fast.

So, yes modifications must happen once pregnancy is established.

However, if you have not been working out before conception, while it is tempting to say you should start as soon as you realise that you are pregnant, the best time to start would have to be derived from a number of factors.

First, you should get your doctor’s permission.

This is very important because while working out is beneficial, it can be counter-productive in some high-risk pregnancies, and especially when there have been previous miscarriages. You should also study your body.

If you are having a rocky First Trimester, you may want to concentrate on getting better and stronger first, before engaging in any extra physical activity.

That being said, exercising, even a simple 30mins walk, has been shown to reduce the effects of morning sickness for example, and provide a pregnant woman with extra energy and less lethargy.

However, morning sickness and other first trimester symptoms can present at various levels of intensity, so study your own body and determine if exercising would benefit, or worsen your condition.

If the coast is clear on both conditions, then the best time to begin a workout routine when pregnant would be once you realise that you are pregnant, because starting early means that your body is conditioned early to create the best environment for you and your growing fetus.

For pregnant women with rocky first trimesters, then the second trimester is the best time to start.

Usually called the ‘Honeymoon trimester,’ here strength levels are great, nausea and morning sickness has reduced or completely gone for most women, and the abdomen protrusion is minimal and won’t cause any major distractions, and so exercising is very welcome to begin.

A good place to start would be prenatal videos available online for sale and for free, but note that those videos are done by professional Fitness Instructors for the most times, and so their strength levels are higher than average woman’s, so it is OK to go slower and take breaks between Reps and moves.

Remember, we do not have big goals in pregnancy.

The goal is not to lose weight, rather it’s to be stronger and fitter for the journey ahead and beyond.

Taking things slow might not be effective for someone with big goals like weight loss or body toning, but even a slow workout session is very effective for a pregnant body.

If you missed the first and second trimester timeline and only want to begin a routine in third trimester, then that is also fine, and even encouraged.

However, you must consider the bump size and the attendant discomfort that comes with it.

But, this doesn’t mean you should stay in bed all day, it just means some workouts may not be comfortable for a beginner to engage in.

Three safe third trimester workouts I’d recommend are: Bouncing on a birth ball at least 3 times a day for 15mins, taking slow long walks (or waddles) for at least 30 to 45mins, and good old dancing.

So, cheers to starting to exercise in pregnancy at your own best time.

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