Exercise Safety for Pregnancy


Physical activity during pregnancy is a minefield of vague advice and contradicting ideas. Many pregnant women enjoy regular physical activity with multiple benefits. The majority of pregnancies are normal. As a general rule, regularly exercising women are able to continue exercising at a mild or moderate level during pregnancy as long as the pregnancy is uncomplicated.

It is important to protect your future treasure to the best of your ability. Any information in this section has been well researched but is not intended to replace the professional advice of your registered physician or midwife. Each individual’s medical history and specific needs still need to be taken into account to ensure the safety of the unborn child and its mother.

Exercise is not recommended for women with serious or potentially serious complications of pregnancy.


Those with the following conditions may not exercise during pregnancy:

  • Active heart disease.
  • Uterine bleeding/ruptured membranes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • History of pre term labour.
  • Incompetent cervix/cerclage.
  • Intrauterine growth retardation.
  • Suspected foetal distress.


After full medical assessment of the individual case, patients may participate in medically supervised exercise programs. There are some conditions that require medical examination prior to taking part in exercise. They may not be life threatening in some individual cases but still need to be reviewed by a physician.

  • Anaemia.
  • Thyroid disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Excessive obesity.
  • Excessively underweight.
  • Breech presentation in the last trimester.


In pregnancy, the more aware a mother is of certain things that can affect the unborn child, the better she may counteract these issues. Some examples of risks/theoretical risks of maternal exercise to the foetus are:

  • Direct trauma to the foetus. Although this is rare it should be avoided at all costs. Therefore contact sports should be avoided.
  • Intense exercise may lead to smaller birth weights of the unborn child. However there are no reports on its adverse outcomes on pregnancy. The only recommendation that regardless of the exercise, the right amount of calories must be taken in to support a growing foetus.
  • When pregnant the following must be avoided: saunas/steam baths/hot tubs, prolonged standing or exercising for too long on your back. Any of these may lead to dangerously low blood pressure and early developmental abnormalities. Overheating is very dangerous for a pregnant mother.
  • Lower back problems may arise from being pregnant. Much care must be taken to support the spine correctly during this time. Load bearing exercises that strain the back therefore are not recommended.


In general, physical activity is not detrimental to pregnant women. Research has shown the following benefits are common:

  • An improved general physical and psychological well-being in the mother.
  • Women who exercise prior to pregnancy and continue to do so in pregnancy weigh less, gain less weight and deliver slightly smaller babes than sedentary women.
  • The discomfort of pregnancy and labour may be more easily handled.
  • It may be easier to get back into pre-pregnancy shape and weight after the birth. Once you have the all clear from your doctor to exercise the following guidelines should help you to ensure that no damage to mother or baby occur whilst training.


General Pregnancy Guidelines

  • Drinking plenty of fluids is very important during pregnancy and especially during the first trimester. The baby has no way to control its own temperature so over heating should be avoided at all cost. This can be done by ensuring adequate hydration and avoiding training in hot humid conditions. Remember that if swimming you still sweat but might not notice, so stop regularly to rehydrate.
  • For women who trained regularly before pregnancy regular exercise is preferable to sporadic sessions. As a general rule, mild to moderate exercise for 20 to 40 minutes, three times a week, at a heart rate up to approximately 140 beats per minute, has been recommended. It is generally considered as important to encourage pregnant women to modify the intensity of their exercise according to their own feelings of fatigue. Exhaustive exercise should be avoided. Pregnancy is not the time to commence anything other than a very mild exercise programme.
  • Pregnancy requires approximately an extra 300 calories per day. These requirements are greater for women who exercise regularly. This should be carefully observed and training should be stopped if there is an insufficient weight gain (less than 1kg per month) during the last two trimesters.
  • Avoid exercise where a loss of balance or physical contact could occur, especially in the third trimester.
  • Dress for an activity wearing loose fitting clothing, with a good support bra and comfortable shoes.
  • Avoid exercising on your back after the first trimester since this is the time that the uterus grows out of the pelvis and this position causes the uterus to weigh down on the vena cava (major heart artery) so reducing the blood and oxygen flow to the baby.
  • Non-weight bearing exercise like swimming, cycling and indoor rowing are recommended, but, if doing weight bearing exercise, avoid bouncing and jerking exercises and deep knee bends as the hormone relaxin released during pregnancy softens the ligaments and this can increase the likelihood of injury. For the same reason, be careful when stretching during warm up and cool down, especially avoiding excessive and ballistic stretches.
  • Avoid standing stationary for long periods of time.
  • Exercising at altitudes of greater than 3,000m (10,000ft) may be unadvised, as rates of pregnancy complications are higher, and birth weights are lower, at high altitudes. In comparison, there have been no reports of problems associated with exercise at moderate altitudes.
  • Be aware that as your pregnancy progresses you will need to re-evaluate your goals – more in line with staying fit than trying to work towards a personal best.



After birth activity may resume without any complications. The changes you experience in your body after pregnancy take time to return to normal. So be careful during the first 6 weeks after delivery. If you are breastfeeding then make sure you are getting in enough calories, about 500 more per day than usual.

After a caesarean birth, wait until your doctor gives you an all-clear after 6 weeks before you resume exercise. Weight training must be broken into slowly again. Otherwise after a sufficient break there is no reason you cannot build back into your physical training program again.



Why you fail at making a lifestyle change

big-mistakeWe all know how it goes. I’ll start on Monday. It will be better when this stage is over. If only I had XYZ then I’d have done it already. I struggle to get out of bed in the mornings. And I mean REALLY struggle. You’d swear I was dead. But I’m also terrible at beginning a new lifestyle program.

Many of us never reach our goals because we never even got to start. There are many good reasons for why we fail. So with a bit of thinking I have come up with a handy list explaining why getting started on the road to success can lead to failure.

5 Common Mistakes:

1 – No Goals:

Many of the top Olympic marksmen are able to hit the bull’s-eye on any target time and time again. If you were in good health, and I had just 20 minutes with you, I bet that I could get you to beat any of these people in competition. Provided of course we first blindfolded the other competitors. Also then spun them around and around so they had no idea where the target was. You might think “Of course I could beat them now because how can you hit a target you can’t see?”

Well how can you reach a goal you don’t have? How can you get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going? How can you lose weight, get the dream job or buy the big beautiful home if you don’t plan to?

Do you think for one second that if they asked Mark Zuckerburg, “Hey Mark, how did you start Facebook and become the world’s youngest millionaire?”, do you think he’d say, “Well I was kinda messing around on the computer one day and whoosh people just started knocking on my door begging to join my website.”

He had a plan, a dream, a final goal he wanted to achieve. Without goals we cannot reach our full potential. Later in this book there is a section on goals, which may be more important than all the other sections combined.

2 – Not thinking long-term:

You don’t just gym in January for a new year’s resolution. All the same as a parent would tell a child that being good for a few days before Christmas does not bring bigger presents.

Nobody can keep up an average weight-loss/exercise program for life. A good lifestyle program is one with built-in systems whereby you live the ideas it taught you everyday day after it is finished. You may only do one driving test but you still have to obey the rules of the road from then on. There may not be a testing officer in the car with you but you have to monitor yourself. If you go through a red traffic light you can cause an accident with serious consequences. If you cheat yourself after a “diet” is over then you risk your health.

You may have lost your goal number of kilos but once you finish the program do you keep them off? Do you stop being healthy just because there is nobody hanging over your back? By thinking long-term you can find discipline to keep it up all the time, not just sometimes if and when you feel like it.

3 – Too Radical:

Rome was not built in one day but it sure can be destroyed as quickly. Sometimes you need to think a little differently to get the same results. It is not about re-inventing the wheel. It’s more like the idea Ancient Egyptians used 4000 years ago by inventing spokes. Simple and effective, yet just different enough to change things for the better.

Sometimes we do need radical shifts but only if they are in a specific, planned direction. However when it comes to diet and exercise, sometimes the more old-fashioned the better.

In nutrition often we starve ourselves for results. When that doesn’t work we use harsh chemicals and drastic surgery. Your granny who grew up in the 50’s or earlier was right. Follow the food pyramid on the back of the Kellogg’s box and walk everyday as much as possible. (Although the food pyramid itself is flawed and I’ll explain later why).

I still fully believe in recreating the general principles of cardio as an effective form of exercise. Cycling, running, swimming and rowing are all old-fashioned and they all work wonders in fitness and strength. Also I prefer free weights as opposed to the very limiting exercise machines offered today. Hardly like the radical aerobics classes of today but it is still more effective.

Sometimes you don’t need a cannon to kill a mosquito. Keep it simple!

4 – Dieting:

Diet is the worst 4-letter word and should be placed amongst all those others you shouldn’t say in polite company. DIETS ARE BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH!!! Diets go against all the previous things I listed here as common mistakes. Diets have goals that are not flexible, not long-term and sometimes require sacrifices on your part that do more harm than good.

Reducing weight will require self-discipline if you are going to be successful. Going to health farms is expensive and they will only control your diet while you are there. Weight loss programs are for the quick fix fad lovers. Supplements pass mostly unused through your system. For long-term success it is really up to you. Even your doctor will do little to help unless the weight problem is as a result of a medical condition. If you do need support then a diet “club” is the best option but you will still have to do the work.

I believe in getting an eating plan from a person you’d love to look like. If they care about their own body they’ll care about yours. Also if someone makes you an eating plan, that someone should be a positive person. Most diets are restrictive. Yes that is kind of the whole idea, to restrict calorie intake. However they all say don’t touch this, you definitely can’t have that, stay away from this and beware of that. A good diet plan will be made by a positive person.

What I mean by this is they’ll tell you “I’ve got good news. You can eat what ever you want. So here’s a list of all the things you are going to want.”

Crash diets do not work. Very low calorie diets may result in a quick weight loss, but studies show this is temporary and that the body gets accustomed to a low calorie intake. Therefore the metabolism slows down. On return to a normal diet the metabolism will not be able to speed up sufficiently to burn off the extra food and will store it as fat. You actually will gain double with a program like this.

Skipping many meals on purpose makes the body famished and causes overeating at the following meal. It is better to space calorie intake over the course of a day. If you accidentally miss a meal then only eat what you’d normally have when the next meal comes around.

Diets are bad and diet foods are worse still. I have no proof and could not possibly claim on any medical grounds but I believe that rice cakes are the most fattening substance on earth. Why I say this is because you never see anybody but fat people eat the stuff.

In all seriousness many health professionals believe that artificial sweeteners that are in most “diet treats” can give you cancer. Diets are bad for you. Healthy eating plans are just that. A healthy alternative way of living to avoid heart disease and morbid obesity. All it takes is an old school approach to feeding yourself.

5 – Activity:

Here it is again, that word activity. No I do not mean training or exercise. I mean being a busy body that gets off the couch and does things.

Not doing a combined exercise and eating plan is the worst mistake you could make. You will not lose the weight permanently and you are not going to address the source of your problem. It is a health issue not a fat issue.

There are two types of diet aids that are designed to help reduce weight. Active aids require the user to carry out physical activity, which burns calories. Passive aids claim to reduce weight without the need to exercise but these are of little use. For example muscle contractions caused by external electrical stimulation may “improve muscle tone” (only according to their ads) if you are particularly flabby but will not reduce weight. Vibrating platforms do not break down fat. Although the user may find them relaxing, they do not burn calories. All they do is shake your fat around. Slimming garments just make you appear skinnier and saunas can lead to temporary weight loss due to sweating, but this loss will be replaced as soon as you take a drink of water.

Humans were designed by evolution to travel long distances; hunting down animals over Great Plains or spending time and effort in search of the right plants to eat. We are designed to endure. But today we drive everywhere, food magically appears in the stores and we live the easy life. There is no need for endurance. There is no need for finding out basic things like how to feed ourselves or survive a night outdoors. So as a result we are quite simply turning into The Planet of the Chunk-a-Lunks. It isn’t called MORBIDLY obese for nothing, excessive weight gain can kill you.

When deciding on an exercise activity, there are a few things to consider. If you are quite overweight there is already additional stress on muscle and joints. For this reason it is better to avoid activities that cause impact like running. Also it is better to look at activities that are non-weight bearing and that is why the indoor rowing machine or swimming is ideal. Start off gently and remember that initially it is better to finish feeling you could do more than being dead on your feet. Gradually increase the training volume as your fitness level improves and don’t expect miracles. It took a long time for the fat to accumulate, it will not disappear overnight.

For weight management, long periods of low intensity exercise is recommended. Multiple sessions of high intensity resistance training are even better. For example, low intensity sessions are either running for an hour 3 times a week or you do 4 short sessions a week of really intense resistance work. However, during all physical activity, the body will use dietary fat long before it uses stored fat, so to make your exercise effective, you will need eat healthily first. A balanced diet is not a slice of cake in each hand. It is where you match energy intake (food eaten) with energy output (activity).

So there you have it! The major culprits as to why you may be failing before you even start. Try remove these factors next time you attempt to change things up even a little.

– Katherine Harvey (6 August, 2013. 3:39pm)