Nurturing life Your reference in perinatal nutrition, from pregnancy to childhood

What types of physical activity are appropriate for pregnant women?

Published on :
By : Nurturing Life's Nutrition Team | Montreal Diet Dispensary

It is recommended to combine cardiovascular exercises with weight training of moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week. However, it is important to respect one’s physical capacity and to take appropriate precautions.

Moderate cardiovascular exercise increases the rate at which the heart beats. It is accompanied by light breathlessness which increases cardiovascular endurance. Here are some recommended activities: walking, cycling, swimming, aerobic dance and cross-country skiing. These physical activities allow a better circulation of oxygen between the mother and her unborn baby and reduce the risk of edema and varicose veins for the mother.

In addition, it is important to work on muscle tone and flexibility. These activities allow a woman to maintain or increase muscle strength and to improve her pregnant posture. For example, doing exercises to reinforce the pelvic floor (muscle at the base of pelvis) can reduce the risk of lumbar pain and urinary incontinence. (see example below).

Example of an exercise that reinforces the pelvic floor (Birthing Centre, CHUM)

Start position

  • Lie on the back, knees bent, feet and knees slightly apart

Exercise

  • Contract the pelvic floor muscles by pulling upwards, as if you were trying to hold in urine or gas
  • Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and release without stopping breathing
  • Release for 10-20 seconds

For more examples of activities that strengthen muscles and improve flexibility, consult the document of Kino Quebec, Active for Life (p23-30)

It is advisable for a pregnant woman to consult her doctor before engaging in any physical activity.  It is especially true for those:

  • with health problems such as  cardiovascular disease, restrictive pulmonary disease, morbid obesity or anemia.
  • with problems related to pregnancy such as previous episodes of early labor or the birth of a low birth weight baby, blood loss or placenta previa (a placenta that is too low in the uterus).

Necessary precautions will be presented in the following article.

References

  • Institut de santé publique. 2011. Le portail d’information prénatale. Fiche : Activité physique et mieux-être. http://inspq.qc.ca/Data/Sites/8/SharedFiles/PDF/activite-physique-et-mieux-etre.pdf
  • Société des obstétriciens et des gynécologues du Canada. 2009. Healthy beginnings: Giving your baby the best start, from preconception to birth. 4e Edition. Pages 29-30; 47-50
  • SOGC/CSEP. (2003). Clinical Practice Guideline: Exercise in Pregnancy and the Postpartum. Period. Can. J. Appl. Physiol. 2003;28(3) : 329-341.

Categories:

The Public Health Agency of Canada has contributed financially to the production of Nurturing Life.

The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the official views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.