Despite the major health benefits associated with keeping active during pregnancy, exercising while pregnant is still something of a taboo. How much is too much? How often should you exercise, what should you focus on and what should you avoid doing?
With so many questions, it’s not surprising that many women shy away from exercise during pregnancy. But keeping fit and active during this time is vital for mother and baby. What’s important is finding new ways of keeping active that fit with your lifestyle.
One way to exercise safely during pregnancy and as a new mum (with baby by your side) is with specialised exercises such as aqua natal yoga - and you can move on to baby swimming classes once baby is born.
Why swimming is great exercise during pregnancy
When you exercise during pregnancy you release all of these wonderful endorphins which are good for you and your unborn baby.
Exercise can also help combat the growing issue of obesity and gestational diabetes; keeping fit and healthy during pregnancy is good for you and baby.
Professor Greg Whyte is the preeminent authority on exercise, physiology and sports performance and rehabilitation in the UK. He says:
“Swimming is one of the best exercises during all stages of pregnancy, providing a safe, warm, private environment together with the ability to maintain fitness throughout pregnancy and beyond. Aqua natal yoga exercise is also good for you during pregnancy, helping to maintain your fitness and strength and controlling your weight. Maintaining fitness during your pregnancy will also help you cope better with giving birth and speed your return to full fitness following the birth.
“In the first trimester there is no need to change any of your usual exercises except any exercise where there is a possibility of collision, such as team sports like netball, hockey or squash. Your baby is very well protected in the womb and a fit, healthy mother is a real positive for the baby. In the second trimester you should begin to think about the additional weight associated with the baby and fluid, plus the position you are carrying the baby which affects your posture.”
Aqua natal yoga – the benefits
Aqua natal yoga is a great way to keep active during pregnancy. It is essentially a yoga class in the water that benefits from the feeling of weightlessness, and uses some of the standard yoga poses and relaxation techniques designed for pregnant women. You can start aqua natal yoga from 14 weeks up until the birth of your baby. Here are some key reasons to give it a whirl:
- Being in water and the effect of weightlessness means you can get into different positions more easily than on dry land.
- Adaptive swim is great for your body and mind as you release endorphins.
- Being in the water is relaxing and a great stress reliever too.
- Aqua natal exercise can also help with tiredness in the earlier stages of pregnancy helping you to feel more invigorated and energetic.
- It can help to get baby into the right position for the birth using certain poses and techniques.
- Effective breathing techniques that help you to relax are designed to help you during labour.
- You can bond with other like-minded mums-to-be and share experiences.
- Aqua natal yoga will help to strengthen your back and arms as well as your core and pelvic floor.
- Aqua natal exercises can also help with spinal alignment (naturally your spine wants to curve during pregnancy and certain techniques can help you to focus on your posture).
Back to the pool post-birth
Once your baby is born, baby swimming is a natural progression from aqua natal yoga and means you can continue to exercise gently post-birth with your baby by your side. It is also great for your mental wellbeing, meeting like-minded new mums and is great for your physical health – and let’s not forget the incredible bonding experience between you and your little one; it is certainly worth dipping your toe into the water for…
Feature by Gaby Lixton, founder of nationwide award-winning baby swim programme Turtle Tots
Turtle Tots is an award-winning swimming programme including aqua-natal yoga for pregnant women which continues once the baby is born with specialist and progressive baby and toddler swimming classes.
Since 2011 Turtle Tots has licensed the programme and there are now over 40 licensees across the UK and Ireland who run their own Turtle Tots businesses. Each licensee is required to donate a percentage of their business revenue to a chosen charity; charities supported include The Scottish Spina Bifida Association, The National Deaf Children’s Society, The Cots for Tots Appeal in Bristol, Ickle Pickle in Hampshire, and Balloons in Exeter.