In the past, women were expected to cut back on their activity and take it easy while they were pregnant. Today, women are becoming more aware of the benefits that exercise has for their prenatal health. For some women, like Kimberley Payne, pregnancy is a wake-up call for an unhealthy lifestyle, but they may not know where to get started in changing that lifestyle. Based on her own choices during pregnancy and her ten years of experience in the health and fitness field, Kimberley Payne shares some tips on how to exercise while pregnant.

Hello, Kimberley, and thanks for the interview. First, why is prenatal fitness important?

Regular exercise will keep the prenatal woman in shape for labour and delivery. After delivery, exercise will help to gain much-needed strength and endurance, boost energy and decrease stress.

What recommendations would you make to a woman who is pregnant, not physically fit, and wants to start exercising?

  • Ease into exercise gradually
  • Take care to drink enough fluids
  • Breathe normally when exercising (don’t hold your breath)
  • Wear loose fitting clothing and a supportive bra
  • Use one of these heart rate monitors

What recommendations would you make to a woman is pregnant and already exercises regularly?

Same as above, but do not exercise if you have anemia (low blood iron), infection (including colds and fever) or increased vaginal bleeding or fatigue.

What should a woman be aware of in regards to pregnancy and exercise?

Occasionally, the abdominal muscles may separate during pregnancy, leaving a “gap.” To check for this separation, lie supine on the floor, knees bent. Raise the head and shoulders slightly off the floor. Feel along the line from the belly button up to the ribs for a gap. There should be a “valley” about one inch wide. If it is wider than this, then the gap must be held (like a broken zipper) in order to perform abdominal crunches. Cross arms over abdomen and pull together to close the “zipper.”

Can you think of anything else you’d like to add?

Stretching prior to activity helps to prevent injury, especially during the postpartum period when joints are loose from the latter months of pregnancy

Don’t forget Kegel exercises, which strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, improving their ability to support the bladder, uterus and bowel. Starting from back to front, tighten the anal, vaginal and urethral muscles in succession. Hold for four seconds, then release them slowly, one at a time, from front to back – like a wave. Breathe normally throughout, taking care not to hold the breath while contracting muscles.