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Physical activity can be maintained throughout and following pregnancy provided trainers are aware of the changes and pressures on a woman’s body. A safe and sensible exercise program, developed in consultation with a doctor, offers numerous health benefits for women. These benefits include improved cardiovascular fitness, appropriate pregnancy weight gain, decreased musculoskeletal discomfort, reduced incidence of muscle cramps and lower limb oedema, attenuation of gestational diabetes mellitus and gestational hypertension, psychological, emotional and social benefits.

In contrast, individuals who cease exercising or continue a sedentary lifestyle during pregnancy may be at higher risk of developing certain disorders.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) recommends individuals without any obstetrical complications participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. The most important thing throughout this period is that exercises do not place excess strain on the pelvic floor.
Below is an outline which offers basic advice for pre and post natal training.

1ST TRIMESTER 0-13 WEEKS: Cease abdominal curl ups and sit ups, which can cause the pelvic floor to drop and increase the risk of separation of the abdominal muscles. Women who are well can enjoy low-impact, low-stress exercise during this stage.

2ND TRIMESTER 14-26 WEEKS: Work at a mild to moderate level avoiding movements like lunges, twisting exercises, and any step or one legged work. This is a prime time for women to begin training for labour which means focusing on exercises that strengthen the glutes and legs.

3RD TRIMESTER 27-40 WEEKS: Trainers should assist their clients emotionally to feel prepared and empowered. Recommended exercises include; water exercises, core abdominal strengthening, back strength and mobility moves in four point kneeling positions or while sitting on a Swiss ball, pelvic floor lifts and relaxation techniques.

POST-NATAL TRAINING: Women should take their time and be gentle on themselves, as doing too much too soon can lead to long-term complications such as prolapse or incontinence.

0-3 WEEKS POST-NATAL: This is a time for rest and recovery. Women can recommence gentle pelvic floor and core abdominal recruitment a few days after delivery. Postural awareness, and gentle neck and shoulder mobilising and stretching are also important to avoid any aches and pains relating to feeding and caring for the new baby.

3-8 WEEKS POST-NATAL: Women should focus on regaining strength and function of the core abdominals and pelvic floor, as well as getting outside for walks with the pram.

8-12 WEEKS POST-NATAL: Women can commence other low-impact and light-strengthening exercises provided they feel well recovered, are free of ongoing concerns, have sound pelvic floor and core strength and have consulted with their doctor.

12-16 WEEKS POST-NATAL: Impact exercise, strength training etc. is completely dependent on the individual, and progress should be very gradual.

What is most important is that trainers encourage clients to be patient and realistic, to listen to their body and enjoy this precious time. To read the full article on Pre and Post-Natal Training, visit Fitness Australia’s

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