Written by Maternity and Pelvic floor Physiotherapist Annakaisa
Exercising during pregnancy is a highly discussed topic where some people find it easy to do workouts until the last day of their pregnancy, while others feel anxious as they cannot move due to their joint pain.
Some common reasons behind the hesitance to be physically active are nausea and different types of aches. Other causes include the fear of hurting the baby or themselves, and the lack of knowledge of exercising safely during pregnancy.
Staying active during pregnancy was challenging
I have always been a person whom exercising is a significant part of my identity, but being pregnant made it challenging to stay active with my growing belly. I had severe ferritin deficiency and nausea during both of my pregnancies until I was halfway through, which drained all my energy and endurance. Thanks to the knowledge I had gained from my profession, I managed to keep myself motivated and hardly gave up on exercising.
As a maternity physiotherapist, I understand that exercising during pregnancy is scientifically proven to facilitate better postpartum recovery. Therefore, I tried to keep active as much as I could. It often required lots of mental struggle since lying on the sofa was always more tempting than sweating from workouts. Although taking rest during pregnancy is highly beneficial and recommended, some light exercise can often help increase well-being and turn your thoughts away from nausea. This was also true in my case.
When I was pregnant with my first child, my work was very different from what I’m doing now. In addition to my physiotherapy work, I coached groups and individuals several evenings a week and instructed group exercise sessions. I did my strength training during breaks in between the coaching sessions. Besides, I also did a lot of cross-country skiing during the early winter, as my child’s due date was in the summer.
When I had my second pregnancy, I gave up coaching as my physiotherapy clients and online coaching sessions took up my time. Therefore, I was significantly less active during this pregnancy than in the previous one. My second pregnancy activities consist primarily of day-to-day tasks and short exercises. The good thing is that I also had a two-year-old toddler at home who kept me off the sofa until the evening. I also used a pregnancy support belt during this time, which helped me carry my toddler and walk around when the joint pain kicked in.
My top tips to stay active with low motivation
1. Try to move during your day. If you feel like the sofa wins every time you intend to start exercising, it is better to make it a routine to be active. Walk or cycle to work and back. If the commute is longer than you can be on your foot, leave the bus a couple of stops earlier, and you can extend your walk that way. If you have a toddler or an older child at home, walk them to daycare or school instead of driving. Did you know that day-to-day activity is more efficient than exercise sessions a few times a week?
2. Do your exercise in short bursts. They add up quickly! Exercising does not always have to mean a one-hour session at the gym. You can easily do a 20-minute exercise session using your body weight during your lunch break, or 15 minutes of flexibility exercises before taking a bath. You can also walk around the block you live after some gardening; all would work. When you set your mind on doing small activities around your everyday habits, your overall activity will increase significantly without you noticing.
3. Try a 10-minute “trial run.” If you feel fatigued and the thought of doing any activity seems insurmountable, just start. And after 10 minutes, you can give yourself the option to either continue or stop. If you still feel tired and exhausted after the time set, you can stop and focus on resting. Sometimes 10 minutes allows your body to wake up, and you may want to continue. Please remember that starting is often the most challenging part, but you will thank yourself later after getting over the first hurdle.
It is undeniable that exercising during pregnancy improves well-being, eases many symptoms, and speeds up recovery. However, it is essential to remember that abstaining from exercising can be recommended in some cases. If your physician has recommended bed rest, please follow their instructions. After your baby is born, you can soon start being active again.
Maternity and pelvic floor physiotherapist, Maternity personal trainer, and A mother of two