The lowdown on exercising while pregnant

There is overwhelming evidence that many forms of submaximal exercise (low- to moderate-intensity exercise) are completely safe and beneficial for uncomplicated pregnancies.

In a healthy pregnancy, exercise can benefit by improving the body's efficiency in extracting oxygen and therefore fit women can achieve more at a lower energy cost; improving muscle tone, strength and endurance; improving postural alignment which may then prevent injuries to back and shoulders; helping prevent unhealthy weight gain during pregnancy; decreasing the risks of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia; and decreasing the incidence of depression before and after pregnancy.

Being fit may also help manage the pain and duration of labour and improve mood. Exercise boosts levels of serotonin - the chemical in your brain which lifts your spirits and helps you feel happy and assists in managing restlessness and disturbed sleep. It reduces stress levels and helps with controlling emotions.

Each pregnancy is unique so it will depend on the individual as to what exercise, how much and how often suits them.

Usually you can safely include low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, cycling and lighter strength training. More specific or higher-intensity activities will depend on your experience, fitness and condition.

When choosing exercise options, get a prescreening and advice from your doctor or obstetrician; reduce the length of time you exercise for, to 30- to 45-minute sessions; always warm up properly and include a cool-down.

Never exercise through pain or discomfort and avoid hot environments. Seek professional advice if suffering from any medical condition during pregnancy.

Listen to your body and do what is best for you.

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