Yes, you can exercise during pregnancy, it's safe and has many benefits (Photo: iStock)

Pregnancy is a unique physiological status, only wholly experienced by females. Not surprisingly, many women, especially in their first pregnancies, harbour several anxieties about what they should be cautious about during pregnancy.

Those keen on physical fitness are often unsure about how much they should continue doing, or not doing. Others aren’t sure about whether they should modify some of their already established physical routines.   

Reassuringly, most physical exercises are safe during pregnancy, and in fact, are beneficial in many respects. Scientific studies show that adverse pregnancy outcomes are not increased by physical exercises. However, there are many physiological changes that happen in pregnancy, mandating some adjustments to exercise regimes.

Cardio-respiratory changes mean that physical tolerance progressively becomes lower as pregnancy advances. Musculoskeletal changes occur too, mandating extra care to avoid injuries. Be selective with the kind of physical exercises you want to do while pregnant. Choose activities that adequately maintain your body balance, are not too strenuous, and should not confer potential direct trauma to the developing fetus.

Thus caution should be exercised with contact and weight-bearing sports which are best supervised by a health professional. Pelvic support belts may be worn to provide extra support to your pregnancy bump. Aerobics and strength conditioning exercises are safe. The aim should be to maintain good fitness without trying to reach peak performance or competitive training.

Walking, jogging and cycling are all safe as well, taking care to maintain balance and avoid falls. Many pregnant women enjoy swimming, which is safe in comfortable pool temperatures. Scuba diving should however be avoided as there is the risk of decompression and gas embolism. 


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Remember additional precautions that include maintaining hydration, avoiding hot and humid gyms, taking adequate calories and maintaining a non-strenuous pace. While taking a breather, pregnant women should avoid lying flat on their backs as this compromises blood circulation to the developing baby, and may also lower your blood pressure.

The benefits of keeping fit during pregnancy are physical and psychological. Physically fit expectant mothers experience less fatigue, less difficulties with sleeping; and less stress, anxiety and depression. Physical fitness is associated with shorter and less complicated labour and delivery. An uncomplicated labour is beneficial to the fetus as well. Physical exercises can be resumed immediately following an uncomplicated delivery. 

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.