One of the most common questions we receive from clients is surrounding what is a safe level of working out, both in pregnancy & after baby. Here is what our go-to personal trainer & holistic nutritionist, Denise Chiriboga, has to say.
It’s so important to get moving in pregnancy. Here are some of the benefits of prenatal exercise for an expectant mom:
- Helps to ward off pregnancy disorders such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, but also to minimize excessive weight gain, pain and discomfort.
- Helps to increase energy levels to help you get through long workdays.
- Helps to manage stress and improve mood as well as increase cognitive function such as memory. because “baby brain” is real!
- Helps to prepare for labour and delivery. What many people really don’t think about is exercise to help prepare for their birth. Labour and delivery is more than just lying in a bed waiting for your baby to be born. It’s a physical event much like a marathon that we must train our bodies for. The more a mom has trained during pregnancy, the better she will be prepared and perform when it comes time to bringing her baby into the world.
Are there any modifications that should be made to a mom working out while pregnant?
While moms shouldn’t be afraid to exercise once they find out that they are pregnant, it’s very common for moms to be a little anxious and not really know what exercises they can do safely.
In early pregnancy you can keep doing what you were doing before. If you weren’t active before becoming pregnant and want to start in pregnancy, it’s best to keep with non-strenuous exercise such as walking, swimming, or hire a trainer who works specifically with pregnant mamas who can guide you throughout.
As baby gets bigger and you get more out of breath, you will need to reduce the intensity of your workouts. This doesn’t mean having to stop lifting weights, or quitting your faourite Zumba class. What it means is lifting lighter weights, or doing less repetitions, or shortening your workout time, or going at your own pace in your fitness class.
There are two ways to make sure you are exercising in the “safe zone” of exertion during pregnancy.
1. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) If you were to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10; 1 considered doing nothing at all, 5 considered heavy, and 10 being very heavy exercise, you should be at a 5 or below meaning you can talk and carry on a conversation. Anything over that will cause you to pant too hard which isn’t safe for mom or baby.
2. Talk Test- If you can still hold a conversation with yourself or trainer during your workouts, you are within a safe range.
Returning to exercise after baby
Is it safe to workout before the 6week pp checkup?
It’s recommended to wait until 6 weeks after vaginal delivery and 8 weeks after cesarean birth to return back to exercise. This is usually when your doctor gives you your final checkup. What your doctor doesn’t discuss is WHAT exercises you can go back to. Don’t think just because your doc gave you the green light that you can go back to doing the exercises you did before you got pregnant, or before you had your baby. A new moms body has been through a lot. What we need to do is retrain the body before we go back to training our bodies. Pregnancy and labour take a real toll on our bodies – our muscles have weakened, our posture has suffered and our pelvic floor and deep core muscles need to become strong again.
So what can a mom do before she gets the green light from the doctor? Movement is necessary. Move around, take short walks but don’t overdo it. Don’t be a hero. If you’re doing enough walking around just mothering all day, try different movements like gentle stretching such as child’s pose, glute bridges, or side lying leg lifts. Core breathing is also important and can be started a day or so after labour. See the video here on how to practice core breathing which can be done seated, side lying or on your back. Core breath helps to get started moving the diaphragm again, gets your transverses muscles working (think core support) and helps activate the pelvic floor muscles, all of which are important to do during pregnancy and postpartum!
These are the most common reasons that new moms hire me as their personal trainer:
- Many moms have some type of core or pelvic floor dysfunction and want help with a training regime focused on healing and becoming strong to function in daily life (Core dysfunction include symptoms such as leaking urine when you laugh, mummy tummy, low back pain, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse) which is very specialized and not many trainers are educated in.
- Some moms have never exercised in the past and know they’re not strong enough to start out doing hardcore stuff they want to work up to doing (ie: stuff they see on Instagram). They’re looking for a place to start, a specific program for them and their body to achieve their goals.
Simply, to lose the “baby weight” where we focus on a whole lifestyle approach to achieving those goals.
My best tip for busy moms who want to incorporate fitness into their everyday life.
- Join a mom and baby fitness class such as Strong Mom, which is dedicated to increasing moms fitness after baby in a safe way. These classes are also a wonderful way to create community with other like-minded moms.
- Stroller walks count as exercise. Fitness doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or working out with weights or machines. Walking is a great exercise especially for new moms.
- There is no right way to exercise and there isn’t a specific number of days or hours in a week that I prescribe for new moms to exercise. Your workouts have to be attainable and be able to fit in your lifestyle with kids.