As Meghan Markle admits she’s enjoying yoga to combat pregnancy ‘jetlag’
As you’ve already seen this week, Meghan Markle has been loving pregnancy yoga since announcing she’s a mum-to-be—even getting up at 4.30am to practice.
Whilst you can safely assume a gentle yoga flow is harmless for both mother and baby-to-be, there are hundreds of pregnancy exercise myths floating around the baby-sphere about how you can and can’t move whilst expecting.
Take PT and Instagram star Carly Rowena, for example, who’s received a lot of online comments as she continues to enjoy Crossfit during her pregnancy.
So, real talk. Is this safe? And how much should you be doing? And are certain types of exercises better than others?
Save your stress—WH spoke to Bumps & Burpees personal trainer Charlie Launder to get expert advice on prenatal exercise and how you should and shouldn’t be moving pre-birth.
Pregnancy exercise tips for everyone, not just the Royals. More as you scroll.
7 PREGNANCY EXERCISE MYTHS,
1. You think exercising through pregnancy is fine but only if you were fit before
The general rule seems to be that if you were working out before your pregnancy, you should be fine to carry on. But, says Launder, there’s a little more to it than that.
“What it really means is that now is not the time to start trying a difficult new sport, or running your first race. If you choose classes that are suitable for pregnancy or see a trainer who is prenatal qualified, then there is no reason to say that you can’t exercise even if you haven’t before.
“Just don’t jump in at the deep end, build it up slowly and make sure to always listen to your body.”
2. You think some exercises are just too dangerous
There are some moves that are better to avoid, says Launder, but it shouldn’t restrict your workout too much. There’s still plenty you can do.
“Crunches are a no-no as they put too much pressure on the abdominals and encourage them to stretch apart more than they have to. This goes for front planks and full press ups too – although these two are fine to do in your first trimester. As your bump grows they will cause excess intra-abdominal pressure, which will, in fact, weaken your abdominal wall and give you extra work to do once your baby is born.
“Lots of women are worried about lifting weights above their head as there are lots of people telling them they can’t. These rumours originate from doctors telling pregnant clients that lifting heavy things above their head could play havoc with their blood pressure, and make them feel dizzy, creating a danger of falling.
“Avoid this by lifting weights that you can perform 8-10 reps of, but there’s no need to avoid lifting things above your head. Just no 1RM shoulder presses, please.
“You should also remember that while you are pregnant, you have an increased amount of the hormone relaxin in your body, which causes your ligaments and tendons to become more elastic. This is to prepare your body for birth, but it also means that your joints become more unstable.
“Ensure that you don’t overstretch your joints by keeping the surrounding muscles strong so that they can be supportive.”
3. You think your bump is going to limit what you can do in the gym
Though sit-ups aren’t a good idea, plenty of exercises can simply be adapted or modified to make more room for your growing bump, explains Launder.
“During your first trimester, nothing really has to change as you will barely notice a bump. You may just find you need to take more breaks as you get out of breath more readily.
“As you go through your pregnancy, you will have to adapt some of your exercises to make way for your growing bump – like taking a wider stance when you squat for example.
“Although it’s better to avoid full press ups, you can still carry on with these exercises by elevating your upper body on a bench or a step. As your bump gets bigger and heavier you may find you’ll want to find a higher surface to put your hands on, such as a kitchen table.”
4. You think some Instagram stars push it too far
If you’re confused by Instagram fitness stars such as Chontel Duncan, who appear to retain their abs throughout pregnancy, you’re not the only one. But, Launder warns, it’s important to remember that every pregnancy is different.
“Its very easy to jump to conclusions when you see an Instagram picture like this, but actually very hard to know the full story. More often than not, we don’t actually know the background of these women, and maybe they are professional athletes whose abdominals are extremely strong in the first place, so are able to train in this way throughout their pregnancy.
“It is difficult to say whether they are ‘healthy’ or not, but it certainly does put unnecessary pressure on those who are scrolling through social media looking for inspiration while they exercise during their own pregnancies.
“It is important not to judge yourself on anyone else as all pregnancies are different, just like all bodies are.
5. You think you need to eat for two, especially if you’re exercising
Nutrition is incredibly important during pregnancy, but, explains Charlie, whether you’re exercising or not it’s all about balance.
“When it comes to nutrition and training, the same rules apply whether you are pregnant or not. Your diet is just as important as training, you need to fuel your body so it can cope with the exercise you are doing.
“No, you don’t need to eat for two necessarily, but you do need to remember that there are two of you, so now is not the time to be creating a calorie deficit or trying any fad diets. It’s also wise to remember that your body will react to an indulgence of unhealthy food the same way it did before you were pregnant, so moderation is key. This is time for a wholesome, balanced diet to support your growing baby.
“As always, being organised is key. Keep healthy snacks in your bag or at your desk so you are never left starving. If you are suffering with morning sickness, this is a good way of keeping your blood sugar levels stable which will help to ease the nausea.”
6. You think you should reduce how many sessions you do a week
This all depends on how you’re feeling and what types of exercise you’re doing, says Launder.
“This is completely dependant on you. How much time you have, how you are feeling – I would always recommend that my clients aim for three exercise sessions a week, whether that is personal training, pilates, swimming or even a long walk. This way they are staying active across the week and keeping their bodies moving.
“Some women get struck badly by morning sickness in the first trimester, so may decide to take it easy for the first few weeks and once it’s gone, start getting back into it. There are some who are able to train hard until the day they are due, and others who start to feel really tired during their last trimester, and so may decide to drop down the number of training sessions they do per week to conserve some energy.
“It is ultimately your decision to make, you know you the best, so listen to your body if it is telling you to rest, and if it’s not – then keep going!”
7. You think staying fit throughout your pregnancy will make labour easier
Sorry – the jury’s out on that one, but you can get your body into the best possible condition ahead of the birth, says Charlie.
“Unfortunately there is no trick to ensure an easier labour – I would be a very rich trainer if there was! You can however, put yourself in the best possible position for an easy labour by keeping yourself strong and injury free through the nine months.
“Of course it is not always within your control and things like pelvic girdle pain and lower back pain can creep up on you.
“I will always focus strongly on glutes, upper back and obliques with my clients, to keep the core of their body strong and stable as their bump grows. This is your best bet at keeping those niggles and pains at bay, and preventing them from turning into something that may stop you from training.”