Many young mothers-to-be are understandably concerned with safety aspects of exercising during pregnancy and how it may benefit their pregnancy, foetal development and childbirth. Among the latest studies made public this year, it was again reported that exercise during pregnancy can help you stay in shape and prepare you for labour.

But what’s remarkable is the finding that exercise actually helps with foetal brain development - a head-start that could have an impact on the child's entire life. Let’s delve a little closer on aspects of these revelations. 


Professor Dave Ellemberg of the Department of Kinesthesiology, University of Montreal, led a study with its CHU Sainte-Justine children's hospital. He cites: "Our research indicates that exercise during pregnancy enhances the newborn child's brain development".  "We are optimistic that this will encourage women to change their health habits, given that the simple act of exercising during pregnancy could make a difference for their child's future."

Professor Ellemberg and colleagues Professor Daniel Curnier and Élise Labonté-LeMoyne presented their findings at the Neuroscience 2013 congress in San Diego.

As a matter of fact, as little as 20 min. @ 3 times a week can already make a vast difference. But do remember that seeking your doctor’s advice is vitally important before you start. Regular exercise can help you cope with the physical changes of pregnancy and build stamina for the challenges ahead. Exercise during pregnancy can help to ease and prevent back pains and other discomforts and help you sleep better. It also helps to prevent excess weight gain and boost your mood and energy levels while improving your stamina and strength. It can reduce risks of gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure and lessen on symptoms of postpartum depression. It might also reduce the risk of your baby being born significantly larger than average – a condition known as foetal macrosomia.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists cites that more recent information suggests that foetal injuries are highly unlikely when exercising while in uncomplicated pregnancy. Likewise, the Clinical Practice Obstetrics Committee of Canada recommends: "All women without contraindications should be encouraged to participate in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises as part of a healthy lifestyle during their pregnancy". They also advise to accumulate at least 30 minutes a day of exercise on most if not all days of the week.

Women who have regularly exercised should be able to engage in higher intensity exercise programs such as jogging and aerobics for less than 45 minutes so long as they have healthy pregnancies. But they should be mindful of the possibility that they may need to increase their energy intake and not to overheat. On a note of advice, if you haven't exercised for a while, begin with say 5 minutes of physical activity and build up gradually to 30 minutes a day to reach the minimal target. However if you have been exercising regularly, you could probably continue at the same level so long as you're feeling comfortable and your doctor says it’s fine. Treadmills are often the desired equipment when exercising indoors.

Nevertheless, try to avoid certain kinds of physical activity such as any exercise that force you to lie flat on your back after your first trimester and contact sports. Also not recommendable are activities posing a high risk of falling including gymnastics, water skiing, surfing and horseback riding as well as scuba diving and exercise at high altitude.

Some safety measures to observe and to stop exercising immediately is with conditions such as dizziness, headaches, increased shortness of breath, chest pains, uneven or rapid heartbeat, uterine contractions that continue after rest, vaginal bleeding, fluid leaking or gushing from your vagina and decreased foetal movement. Exercise is also not recommended for some forms of heart and lung disease, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, cervical problems, preterm labour during your pregnancy or risk factors for preterm labour such as preterm labour during the pregnancy prior to your current pregnancy and a multiple pregnancy at risk of preterm labour.

However, should you exercise, do remember to warm up and cool down and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Be careful and avoid overheating.