How should you fine-tune your ex­er­cise rou­tine for a healthy preg­nancy? We ask the fit­ness ex­perts.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

How should you fine-tune your ex­er­cise rou­tine for a healthy preg­nancy? We ask the fit­ness ex­perts.

Neo Ko Hui was a school track star in her teens who went on to play touch rugby.

But when she found out she was preg­nant eight years ago, the phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher ended up “just walk­ing for long pe­ri­ods of time”.

In con­trast, her sec­ond preg­nancy last year saw her run­ning and lift­ing weights right up to her last trimester.

“I re­alised that it was eas­ier to get back into shape if I main­tained or less­ened the more stren­u­ous work­outs. It was tough with the daily de­mands of work and tak­ing care of my first child, but the im­por­tance of stay­ing healthy by eat­ing right and keep­ing ac­tive kept me go­ing,” says the 37-year-old, who started with lighter in­ten­sity work­outs in the first trimester be­fore re­sum­ing her nor­mal pace from the sec­ond trimester.

If you’ve al­ways been ac­tive like Ko Hui and don’t have med­i­cal or ob­stet­ric com­pli­ca­tions, it’s per­fectly safe to con­tinue un­til you give birth.

Ac­cord­ing to guide­lines by the Amer­i­can Con­gress of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gyne­col­o­gists, 30 min­utes or more of mod­er­ate ex­er­cise a day on most, if not all, days of the week is rec­om­mended.

“Ex­er­cise im­proves stamina and keep mus­cles sup­ple, which help ease the progress of labour,” ex­plains Dr Irene Chua, se­nior con­sul­tant ob­ste­tri­cian and gy­nae­col­o­gist at Irene Chua Clinic for Women. “It also helps strengthen back mus­cles to cope with weight gain in preg­nancy, thus eas­ing back­aches.”

How­ever, bear in mind that the changes in hor­monal lev­els will in­evitably af­fect your stamina, co­or­di­na­tion and strength. So, al­ways lis­ten to your body, say fit­ness ex­perts who work with ex­pec­tant mums.

“Ex­er­cise also re­leases en­dor­phins, which boost the mood and help one sleep bet­ter,” Dr Chua adds.

But if you’ve never or hardly worked out be­fore, she ad­vises that you con­sult your doc­tor and start only after the first trimester – ideally in a group or un­der the guid­ance of a qual­i­fied in­struc­tor.

An­other ad­van­tage of join­ing a fit­ness class: mums-to-be can ex­change preg­nancy tips and ex­pe­ri­ences, and build a won­der­ful sup­port net­work, says Cham Lay Peng, a yoga in­struc­tor at The Yoga School and Como Shamb­hala Ur­ban Es­cape Sin­ga­pore, who has been teach­ing pre­na­tal yoga for eight years.

Here, we ask the in­dus­try ex­perts to weigh in on dif­fer­ent work­outs.


Low-im­pact ex­er­cises like pre­na­tal yoga help pre­pare your body (phys­i­cally), breath (en­er­get­i­cally) and mind (men­tally) for labour, de­liv­ery and moth­er­hood, says yoga in­struc­tor Lay Peng. You learn to re­lax, rather than tense up when you feel un­com­fort­able.

As a rule of thumb, avoid hot yoga – it may lead to over­heat­ing and pose prob­lems for fe­tal devel­op­ment. Also steer clear of jump­ing move­ments, closed twists like re­volv­ing side an­gle pose, fast-flow­ing poses and poses that put pres­sure on the ab­domen and uterus, such as boat, co­bra, lo­cust and bow.

If you have been do­ing in­ver­sions like hand­stands be­fore you were preg­nant, you may con­tinue to do so pro­vided you still feel com­fort­able. If you ex­pe­ri­ence heart­burn or any health con­di­tion dur­ing preg­nancy, it’s best to re­frain from turn­ing up­side down, ad­vises Lay Peng.

New to yoga? Go­ing for pre­na­tal yoga classes is a great way to start, as long as you have med­i­cal clear­ance from your doc­tor. These are usu­ally catered to all lev­els, and will in­tro­duce you to safe ways to do yoga, in­clud­ing proper breath­ing tech­niques, dur­ing preg­nancy.


If you were run­ning reg­u­larly be­fore you got preg­nant, chances are, you can still run a rea­son­able dis­tance. If you feel up to it, you can run dur­ing any stage of your preg­nancy, says Ka­reen Lai, a for­mer PE teacher and founder of Mums In Sync, which de­signs fit­ness and nu­tri­tion pro­grammes for preg­nant women and new mums.

“But if your body says ‘this doesn’t feel right’ – stop and don’t push your­self. This is not the time to test the ‘no pain, no gain’ the­ory,” she adds.

To train your car­dio fit­ness, con­sider do­ing other aer­o­bic ex­er­cises such as aqua aer­o­bics, swim­ming, row­ing, in­door cy­cling, and us­ing the el­lip­ti­cal ma­chine. These ac­tiv­i­ties are con­sid­ered low-im­pact, which means they put lit­tle or no pres­sure on your joints.


Bou­tique barre stu­dio WeBarre of­fers pre­na­tal barre classes that you can join from the first trimester till you pop. Reg­u­lar barre stu­dents are ad­vised to switch to the pre­na­tal class after 15 weeks of preg­nancy.

Just like a typ­i­cal barre class, WeBarre’s pre­na­tal class will work your body from head to toe, es­pe­cially the arms, legs, glutes and core. Var­i­ous props, such as re­sis­tance tubes, re­sis­tance bands and preg­nancy wedges, are used to re­duce pres­sure on the joints and the rest of the body.

“Barre is great for pre­na­tal women as it’s low-im­pact yet very ef­fec­tive in strength­en­ing your sta­bilis­ers and bal­anc­ing out the changes in your body. We fo­cus a lot on pos­ture and align­ment to help mums-tobe main­tain good form,” says Linda Tang, WeBarre’s co-founder.

“Be­sides to­tal-body ton­ing, the en­dor­phins re­leased from the barre burn will make you feel good, length­ened out and more en­er­getic through­out your preg­nancy.”


For safety rea­sons, most pi­lates stu­dios ad­vise go­ing for pre­na­tal classes in­stead of reg­u­lar pi­lates classes. The pre­na­tal classes are tai­lored to help re­lieve com­mon preg­nancy symp­toms (think achy backs) and to pre­pare the body for labour, says Au­drey D’Cotta, founder and prin­ci­pal in­struc­tor of The Mov­ing Body Group.

The main ob­jec­tives in­clude learn­ing breath­ing tech­niques that will help you re­lax dur­ing labour, ac­ti­vat­ing the core mus­cles safely, strength­en­ing the arms and back for car­ry­ing baby, and im­prov­ing con­trol of the pelvic floor mus­cles to pre­vent uri­nary in­con­ti­nence.

Ex­pect a pre­na­tal pi­lates class to be slower-paced, with an em­pha­sis on sta­bil­is­ing and stretch­ing spe­cific mus­cles that be­come tighter dur­ing preg­nancy.

“In pre­na­tal pi­lates, we fo­cus on strength­en­ing the glutes, ham­strings, quads, up­per and lower back, deep ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles, chest, shoul­ders and neck mus­cles to cre­ate a strong sup­port sys­tem for the body,” says Ro­hini Sarde­sai, a se­nior in­struc­tor at Breathe Pi­lates.

Ex­er­cises are done on a mat or the re­former ma­chine, a car­riage that comes with bars, springs and pul­leys, al­low­ing you to ad­just the in­ten­sity to suit your needs. First-timers may be re­quired to at­tend oneon-one in­tro­duc­tory ses­sions be­fore join­ing a pre­na­tal group class.

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