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Pregnancy exercises to avoid

Pregnancy exercises to avoid

Exercise is not dangerous for your baby. There is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour.

Gentle exercise and staying active during pregnancy are beneficial for both you and your baby but there are some activities that should be avoided whilst pregnant to avoid injury or causing ill health to you or your baby. Not all exercise is off limits though, and in some cases you can continue with your normal routine by making some modifications. Remember, that even if you were very active before pregnancy, some of those exercises may not be right for you now. Read on to understand what is and isn’t safe for you to do and how you can adapt to your changing body.

Contact sports

Sports such as football, netball, martial arts or hockey are all classed as contact sports as there’s a risk that your bump could be hit either by fellow players or equipment. It’s recommended to avoid contact sports whilst pregnant. If you’re part of a sports team, you could continue to train with your team in the gym as long as you’re not participating in the sport.

Anything with a risk of falling

As your pregnancy progresses, your centre of gravity changes as your bump grows, so your risk of falling is likely to increase. Activities with a risk of falling such as climbing, skiing, trampolining, cycling or horse riding should be avoided. Cycling on a static bike in a gym is a safer option until you’re ready to get back out on the open road.

Exercising on your back 

Exercises such as Pilates and Yoga are often recommended during pregnancy, but be aware that many classes require longer periods of lying on your back or right side as you exercise. You may be tempted to adapt your weight training to a reclined seat or bench but this can also be unsafe as we’ll explain. After 16 weeks of pregnancy the weight of your baby can cause pressure on major blood vessels which reduces blood flow to your heart and to your baby. Try reducing your weights by two thirds to remain standing or seated, ask your pilates teacher for a non-lying alternative and enjoy the relaxation at the end of yoga classes by lying on your left side. Left-side sleeping is also recommended after 16 weeks.

Lifting heavy weights or objects

Lifting weights in the gym, power classes or moving heavy objects at home is unsafe during pregnancy. These activities place greater strain on your joints and interconnecting ligaments as well as stress on the heart and skeletal muscles. As your body is flooded with the pregnancy hormone relaxin, this allows greater stretch and movement in muscles and joints, which can result in joint, back or muscle injuries. 

If you’re used to lifting heavy weights then reduce the weights by at least two thirds and continue to reduce as your pregnancy progresses. Be aware that any movement of the arms above the head can result in dizziness and strain on the heart.

High Impact exercise

High impact exercises raise the heart rate and tend to keep it raised. For those pregnant, any exercise where you get out of breath is considered to raise your heart rate too high. Examples of high intensity exercises are HIIT, sprinting, bootcamps and interval training.

Any overexertion causes your core body temperature to increase leaving you more dehydrated and more likely to strain a muscle. If you have a favourite exercise try exercising slower and with less weight or resistance to reduce the intensity. Low to moderate intensity is best.

What else should I AVOID?

  • Activities that place pressure on your pelvic floor such as jumping or skipping
  • Sit ups, planks or push ups
  • Holding your breath
  • Exercises in the heat
  • Twisting
  • Intense stretching
  • Long distance running

Safer exercises for Pregnancy

Walking, swimming, aquarobics, pilates or yoga are all great exercises for during your pregnancy. Follow the guidance above if you’re adapting other activities. Make sure you warm up before and cool down after exercise, keep activity sessions to around 30 minutes and drink plenty of water throughout.

Classes not suitable for pregnancy 

It’s best to attend classes that are specifically designed for pregnancy. This way you can be assured the level or exercise is safe and alternative movement options are available. If you do attend a new class such as Pilates or Yoga be sure to make the teacher aware of your stage of pregnancy and ensure they’re trained to instruct pregnant women.

Final thoughts from Kami

Now that you’re pregnant your priorities have changed. Now is not the time to start a new fitness regime or rapidly increase exercise. Regardless of whether you were very active or not before pregnancy, try to maintain some level of exercise but on a gentler level. Remember there are plenty of options to adapt activities. 

If you’re exercising and experience pain or discomfort at any time then stop and if you’re worried about any of the exercises you’ve done or are planning to do then consult your midwife or doctor for reassurance and advice.