Sports that are safe in pregnancy

If you are an avid cycler, or adore football, then find out if you can continue throughout pregnancy as our exercise guru answers your questions

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Aerobics may be too much during pregnancy

Q: My partner and I are keen cyclists. I’ve just found out I’m pregnant – will I have to stop?

A: It is always best to consult your GP or midwife as to whether it is safe for you to carry on exercising during pregnancy, but after receiving the all clear, it is just a matter of following sensible guidelines.

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There is no reason you should stop cycling, but there are factors to take into account. Keep your ride limited to 45 minutes and always pull up if you feel exhausted, dizzy or short of breath. It would be a good idea to wear a heart-rate monitor, and to bear in mind that your pulse should not rise above 140 beats per minute (bpm) during any pregnancy exercise.

As you move into your second trimester, you will find your centre of gravity shifts – which can cause balance problems – and you will need to adjust your bike accordingly.

Finally, bear in mind that there are going to be days, if not weeks, when morning sickness and tiredness make you feel that exercise is impossible. Don’t beat yourself up: listen to your body

Q: I play for a local ladies’ soccer team, and have just found out that I’m pregnant! I’ll have to stop playing at some point, but am I safe to carry on until my bump starts to get too big?

A: Technically, there is no reason why anyone who is pregnant cannot carry on with their exercise routine until they reach the second trimester.

However, I would recommend that you stop playing matches from now, as the first 12 weeks carry a higher risk of miscarriage. If the worst were to happen, especially following a collision or similar accident, you’d probably find that you’d blame yourself – even though it’s not usually possible to isolate the cause of a miscarriage. This is easily remedied by giving you and your growing baby a break from football.

I would suggest that you could keep involved with your team by attending team training and fitness sessions, watering the activities down to a sensible level. Avoid any chance of collision or falls. After the 12-week mark, don’t do any exercises involving lying on your back (sit-ups and crunches are a prime example of this). Wear a heart rate monitor so you can ensure your heart beat does not rise over 140 beats per minute. Keep yourself well hydrated, and stop if you feel at all unwell.

Admittedly, you’ll be on the sub’s bench for a while, but attending all of your teammates’ matches without joining in physically will not only keep you involved but also keep your baby safe.

Q:  I’ve just found out I’m pregnant. I go to a step aerobics class – can I carry on with this for the time being?

A: I personally feel that advanced step aerobics classes are too strenuous for pregnant women. However, guidelines advise that as long as you have been a regular at this class for a while then carrying on during your first trimester should be safe enough, if you are cautious. There are precautions you should take to ensure you’re not over-exerting yourself. First, lower the height of the step – preferably working off the platform only (please also make sure it is a commercial, decent brand of ‘step’, and will not slip).

Don’t use hand weights, or attempt any complicated routines. Remember, too, that you should never take your heart rate over 140 beats per minute while pregnant. To

be on the safe side, you might want to consider taking up a different form of exercise: step aerobics aren’t recommended from the first trimester onwards anyway, because changes in your body can affect your balance.

Finally, and as with all forms of exercise, stop immediately if you feel hot, faint or short of breath, or experience vaginal bleeding, blurred vision or disorientation. If problems occur, keep your feet moving with a gentle walk to let your heart rate and breathing return to normal, then go and see your midwife or GP as soon as possible.

Q: I’m 5 weeks pregnant, and my husband and I are keen cyclists. How much cycling I will be able to do during my pregnancy?

A: When it comes to exercise regimes, it’s always best to consult your GP or midwife as a matter of course, but if you are fit and healthy here should be no reason why you should not carry on cycling for the time being. However, there are various factors that are important to take into consideration.

As you move into your second trimester you’re going to find your centre of gravity shifting, which can cause balance issues. At this stage you might also be feeling a bit absent-minded, so plan your rides ahead to avoid any sharp turns or tricky moves. For safety’s sake avoid rough terrain and try to stick to well paved roads. Do take care – a fall can be a risk to your pregnancy.

It is always important to stay hydrated during exercise, but especially so now that you are pregnant. Be careful not to overexert yourself. It’s a good idea to wear a heart-rate monitor whilst cycling, bearing in mind your pulse should not rise above 140bpm during any form of pregnancy exercise (so you might want to avoid those hills). If you are out of breath you are working too hard – slow down!

You’ll also need to adjust your bike as your pregnancy progresses. For example, you will need to sit up straighter as your abdomen grows. Raise the handlebar stem up as far as you can, but do it slowly, over time, a centimetre a week for example. Too much change can make your back hurt. Finally, take into account the extra calorie intake you are going to need. Even a short ride can burn 500+ calories, so make sure you get the extra nutrients in a healthy balanced diet.

Q: I am 7 weeks pregnant and my family have advised me not to continue riding my bike to work, as they think it may be dangerous for my baby. What do you think?

A: This is tough to answer as it is a personal choice rather than a set yes / no answer. Firstly there is no reason (as long as your midwife or GP agrees) why you cannot exercise all the way through your pregnancy. Secondly, cycling is a great way to keep fit. Make sure you keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute (investing in a basic heart rate monitor which costs under £40 is a good idea). Don’t let yourself get exhausted, so stop when you feel tired. Common sense should also prevail, such as keeping hydrated and not letting yourself overheat (if you do, so does your baby, which can be dangerous).

Exercise becomes harder during your third trimester and it is this point I would suggest considering a different form of exercise. Maybe you could walk some of the way to work instead? Or use a stationary cycle at home. You never know – you may not feel like doing anything!

A lot of women choose to ride their bikes or continue roller blading all the way through each trimester, others don’t. It’s your decision! If you do choose to carry on, you need to avoid all situations which can increase the risk of you crashing – stick to less travelled roads and avoid places with unpredictable kids and pedestrians. Also you will need to think abut your ever changing centre of gravity, so here are some ways to make cycling easier on baby:

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Sit upright by raising the handlebars as you expand. A regular saddle that supports you well should work during the first few months. But if changes in riding posture cause discomfort, consider a paddled saddle. Because they bear more weight, pregnant women may get carpel tunnel syndrome ( a nerve disorder that causes tingling or numbness), so use well-padded gloves and shift hand position frequently.

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