Sport during pregnancy: key points at a glance
Sport helps pregnant women to stay physically and mentally healthy during this special time of their life. Certain types of sport and exercises are particularly beneficial. However, there are also limits to observe.
What sports are allowed during pregnancy?
«Nothing new in pregnancy» is the best way of summing it up. Having said that, pregnant women can attend specific pregnancy courses without hesitation, even if they haven’t done any sport before. Sports to which the body was accustomed before the birth can, in principle, be continued during pregnancy. Of course, certain aspects (intensity, abdominal muscles, pelvic floor, etc.) should be taken into account. The following forms of exercise are recommended:
- pelvic floor training
- hiking and walking
- strength training
Cardiovascular system: listen to your own body
In general, you should train in the aerobic zone (= using oxygen to produce energy), although setting fixed pulse limits here makes no sense, as pulse rates are individual. The guideline stating that «the pulse should not exceed 140 beats per minute» is outdated. The most important thing is to listen to your body.
Borg scale as a guide
The Borg RPE scale can be used here as a guide to determine your own individual perception of exertion. Tip: omit «hard» and «very hard» levels. Plus: you should still be able to talk during exercise (talk test).
From when are sports allowed during pregnancy?
Any time – indeed, several meta-analyses conclude that sports activities are recommendable during pregnancy. Regular exercise even reduces the risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure.
Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
Reduces the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia.
Helps prevent excess weight gain.
- Is uplifting and increases the overall sense of well-being.
Helps prevent water retention.
Boosts postpartum recovery.
Has positive effects on the baby’s brain activity.
Reduces the risk of severe back pain during pregnancy.
Improve your posture with training
During pregnancy, your posture changes because the baby bump puts more strain on the back muscles, making it more difficult to stand upright. Regular training will help strengthen weakened muscles (such as the gluteal muscles) and also ease heavily stressed muscles.
Is it harmful to jog when pregnant?
The baby is well protected in the belly. If you jogged regularly before becoming pregnant, there’s no harm in jogging in the first half of pregnancy. However, one thing should be noted: the conditions required for high-impact movements become more demanding as pregnancy progresses. It's therefore important to discuss your training practice with your gynaecologist and, if necessary, find alternatives (e.g. aqua jogging, cross trainer, Nordic walking).
Joggers take note
Don't forget strength and stability training with a focus on the pelvic floor and core muscles.
Important with any form of exercise: be aware of your extra weight
When exercising during pregnancy, it’s important to be aware of the extra weight you’re carrying and not overload the musculoskeletal system. Remember that hormones cause ligaments and tendons to become softer, for example.
Healthy pelvic floor during pregnancy
The pelvic floor is put under a lot of strain during pregnancy, as it also has to bear the weight of the baby in the belly. For this reason, a holistic form of training is called for. This means: in addition to gentle strengthening exercises, the pelvic floor needs relaxation, mobilisation and pelvic floor-friendly daily habits.
Effect of pelvic floor exercises:
- improves posture
- a strong pelvic floor helps carry the extra weight (baby including uterus and placenta)
- prevents urinary incontinence during and after pregnancy
- helps during the birth and with regeneration after the birth
Abdominal muscle training during pregnancy
Over time, the two straight abdominal muscles soften, expand and move apart (rectus diastasis), making room for the unborn child. However, this causes a lack of tension in the tendon plate (linea alba) between the muscles. For this reason, a functional and specific form of abdominal training that focuses on the deep abdominal muscles is recommended.
But be careful: during all exercises (e.g. planks, push-ups, etc.), make sure the abdomen doesn’t tighten – what’s known as «doming». As soon as you feel the abdomen about to tighten, adjust the exercise.
The right training for each trimester
The emphasis in each trimester can be varied according to needs.
- In the first trimester, light exercise can help with nausea and fatigue.
- In the second trimester, you can address the body’s physical changes by specifically strengthening muscles subject to more exertion. The benefit will continue into the third trimester and help prevent pregnancy-related ailments.
- In the third trimester, you’ll set your focus on actively preparing for the birth. For this, it's best to attend an antenatal course where topics like pelvic floor relaxation exercises and birthing positions are covered.
Online exercises from experts
Stefanie Meyer founded the «rund8fit» start-up with Anna Tomaschett. The rund8fit training platform encourages pregnant women and mothers to keep moving by offering a range of safe and varied programmes adapted to their life phase. There are also numerous free exercise videos on the YouTube channel.
Antenatal training: practical exercises
The following 3 exercises are easy to do at home. All you need is a yoga mat.
Exercises at home
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Consult a doctor if you notice these signs
The body undergoes many changes during and after pregnancy within a relatively short period of time. It’s therefore advisable to pay attention to certain points when exercising. These signs indicate that you should stop exercising and consult a doctor:
- severe dizziness
- dizziness or headache with exercises on your back
- premature contractions
- less movement from the baby
- loss of amniotic fluid
- swelling of hands, feet or face
Special precautions for risk groups
If you’ve suffered miscarriages, are carrying a high-risk pregnancy or have medical complaints, always discuss exercise and sport with your gynaecologist.