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Building Muscle During Pregnancy: the How and Why

Exercise during pregnancy is important. It not only helps you build the muscle strength and stamina needed for labour, but also enables you to recover more quickly. This is key, with two thirds of women experiencing separated tummy muscles in pregnancy. Being physically strong can also help you cope during that (often overwhelming) initial period of your new life with your baby. However, exercise and nutrition must be managed carefully, particularly with regard to building muscle, which is difficult to achieve effectively in pregnancy.

Steady wins the race

You should regard exercise during pregnancy as maintaining fitness, rather than exerting yourself strenuously. Exercise is certainly important, but how you approach prenatal exercise is crucial. The physical demands of exercise on your pregnant body are significantly greater than on your body pre-pregnancy. If you didn’t exercise regularly before pregnancy, don’t suddenly increase your exercise significantly during pregnancy. Gym work for long-term avid gym enthusiasts, for example, is fine – with the exception of certain exercises; the same goes for yoga, with stomach-stretching exercises and hot yoga no-nos during pregnancy. Always aim for gentle movements that promote natural deep breathing. As a rule of thumb though, when in doubt, don’t do it. Caution is definitely best.

Eat healthily

The importance of diet in pregnancy cannot be overstated. Steady weight gain is needed, and expected, in pregnancy. As a result, the extra calories needed (300 daily) should be used on nutritious food; don’t just reach for the ice cream. Likewise, be careful to avoid foods that increase blood pressure, such as salt, frozen pizza, processed meats and packaged foods. Focus on wholesome foods such as legumes, whole grain foods, chicken (and other lean sources of protein) and fruit. Meanwhile, eating little and often, rather than having three big meals a day, is recommended for sustained energy levels and comfortable digestion.

Keep Your Fluids Up

In addition to exercising and eating appropriately, staying hydrated is very important. The benefits of water for the mind and body are extensive. Water is essential during pregnancy for lots of reasons, including producing amniotic fluid, carrying nutrients and increasing blood volume, all of which keeps you energised. Exercise of course causes you to dehydrate, making it all the more important to drink water during or just after exercise.

All in all: be sensible

As a pregnant woman, you no doubt want to do all you can to ensure that your baby is healthy. This means looking after yourself physically and mentally through exercise and a healthy diet. Seek medical advice on any potential exercise risks and stop if you experience any discomfort or pain. Remember, the most important thing when it comes to exercising in pregnancy is to be safe.

By Jane Isherwood

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