Maintain your strength and fitness during pregnancy with these exercise tips.

IS IT NECESSARY TO DO RESISTANCE AND STRENGTH TRAINING DURING PREGNANCY? WHAT'S A SAFE WAY OF DOING THEM?
Strength training is also recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists before, during and after pregnancy. Strength exercises will also reduce the risk of back pain during pregnancy. Its recommendation is similar to adult recommendation of strength exercises. However, few precautions should be taken:

* No exercise while laying supine, especially after the first trimester.
* No breath-holding. Try to breath throughout the exercises.
* Do not lift weights that are too heavy. Judge your own ability.
* No motionless sitting or standing.
* Avoid bouncing exercises like jumping.

Women are also encouraged to do pelvic floor exercises. This will help increase pelvic floor muscle strength and reduces the risk of urinary incontinence. Do three sets per day of 8-12 contractions per set, three to four times per week.


The view of Mount Kinabalu from Pekan Nabalu.

IF I HAVE BEEN RUNNING, HOW SHOULD I CONTINUE WHEN I AM PREGNANT?
You may continue to maintain running in the absence of complication or contraindication as tolerated, throughout your pregnancy. You may adjust the intensity and duration of running or jogging or type of exercise and adapt exercise as the pregnancy progresses.

High intensity exercises like jogging and running may easily increase you core body temperature. It is important to maintain your core body temperature at not more than 2*C from normal body temperature to prevent neural tube defect to your foetus.

Ensure you are well-hydrated during exercise. Wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid exercise in hot temperature and high humidity conditions to protect against heat stress. Watch out for symptoms of hypoglycaemia, if you exercise for more than 45 minutes.


Ensure you are well-hydrated during exercise. Photo from babycenter.com.

WHAT ARE SOME CONDITIONS DURING PREGNANCY IN WHICH EXERCISE IS CONTRAINDICATED?
These are warning signs to stop exercise. If you have these signs during exercise, stop exercise and seek advice urgently:
* Vaginal bleeding
* Regular/painful contraction
* Amniotic fluid leakage
* Difficulty in breathing
* Dizziness
* Headache
* Chest pain
* Calf pain and swelling
* Muscle weakness

If this you have these conditions, exercise is not recommended. There are more risks than benefits to exercise.

Absolute (where exercise is not recommended)
* Significant heart disease
* Restrictive lung disease
* Cervical incompetence
* Multiple pregnancy at risk of premature labour
* Persistent bleeding
* Placenta previa after 26 weeks
* Premature labour
* Rupture membrane
* Preeclampsia
* Severe anaemia

Relative (where risks are more than benefits)
* Anaemia
* Cardiac arrhythmia
* Chronic bronchitis
* Poorly controlled type-1 diabetes
* Extreme morbid obesity
* Extreme underweight
* Intrauterine growth restriction
* Poorly-controlled hypertension


Exercise is not recommended for pregnant women with severe anaemia. Photo from baby-pedia.com.

An avid sportsman who believes in the healing power of exercise, Assoc Prof. Dr Ahmad Taufik Jamil is Universiti Teknologi Mara’s public health consultant and exercise physician. Reach him at atjamil@gmail.com

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