This is a wonderful form of exercise. It is certainly the easiest and cheapest, and is available to everyone. Just 15 minutes of brisk walking, building up to 30 minutes three times a week, is helpful. Walking even a kilometre a day will ease aching legs and a sore back, and help maintain a degree of physical fitness. The ‘talk test’ is a good indication of whether your exercise intensity level is too high. If you can maintain a conversation while exercising, keep going; this is considered a comfortable intensity. If you cannot do this, exercise less intensely. Take it slowly, have plenty of rests if you need them, but walk.
This is less popular than walking, because it is a high-impact exercise, and as pregnancy progresses it puts extra strain on softened pelvic ligaments. If you want to run, take it more easily as your weight increases. Some women find it too uncomfortable as pregnancy progresses, and urinary incontinence may be a problem. But if you enjoy it, carry on gently as long as it’s comfortable, and then do some other form of exercise such as walking instead.
This is excellent for pregnant women and probably the perfect pregnancy exercise. It’s relaxing – provided the water is neither too hot nor too cold – and the buoyancy of the water supports your increasing body weight. It’s quite safe to swim during pregnancy, unless the amniotic sac around the baby has broken (see p.260 of The New Zealand Pregnancy Book), although this is very unusual until late in pregnancy. As your EDD approaches, swimming is also helpful to get your baby into a good position: the ‘tummy down’ position you use doing breaststroke or with a kickboard, for example, can help your baby’s back to move forward rather than lying against your back. This posterior position often causes backache in pregnancy and labour, so anything you can do to relieve it is helpful (see box on p.225 of The New Zealand Pregnancy Book).
Aquarobics classes are offered by many swimming pool complexes around the country, and involve a range of exercises done in the water.
Many pregnant women find them relaxing and fun. Keeping fit in the water has a number of advantages during pregnancy:
- Every muscle in the body can be exercised in the water, either gently or more vigorously.
- The water takes some of the weight off your lower limbs, and is good for increasing the blood circulation in the legs, especially when standing and walking in the water.
- You can exercise quite actively in the water without overheating.
- Classes are a good way to meet other women who are pregnant, and those who already have children.
A variety of exercise programmes tailored specifically for pregnant women are available in some centres in New Zealand, and many commercial gyms now offer courses that take pregnancy requirements into account. Check out suitable classes offered in your area – yoga centres and physiotherapists are also worth trying, as some run excellent classes for pregnancy and in preparation for birth.
Detailed pregnancy exercises can be found on pp.126-133 of The New Zealand Pregnancy Book.