AQUATIC EXERCISE IN PREGNANCY

November 10, 2014

 

Exercise during pregnancy is great for many reasons but what is so great about exercising in water?

 

Buoyancy is your friend
Buoyancy works in the opposite direction to gravity, so when in the water you experience less body weight. In other words, the deeper you go into the water the less of your body weight you need to support through your joints i.e. at hip level you are taking about 50% of your body weight and at neck level only 10% of your body weight. Good news when you consider that the average pregnancy will lead to an increase of 12 - 14kgs.  Therefore, buoyancy allows greater freedom of movement, a wider variety of exercise positions, and places less strain on joints/muscles/connective tissue. In addition, buoyancy provides an upward force which provides greater support to the pelvic floor and abdominal region during exercise.

 

To summarise:

  • lower impact

  • you can exercise on your back or tummy, which you can't do on land

  • if you are experiencing pain during pregnancy it can provide pain relief and/or an option to exercise without pain

  • you feel lighter and freer in your movements

  • safer on pelvic floor and abdominal muscles

 

Hydrostatic pressure
The pressure the water exerts on your body whilst under the water leads to all sorts of changes in your body that you are probably not even aware of. For example, your heart rate tends to be lower when you are exercising whilst immersed in water. The pressure changes also lead to changes for your baby such as increased amniotic fluid index and increased movement and breathing. It also tends to lower our blood pressure.

 

Suffering from swollen legs and ankles?

Then hydrostatic pressure helps to relieve some of the oedema (swelling) whilst you are in the water. Unfortunately, the effect won't last forever as gravity starts to take effect again when you get out. But it can help provide some short term relief.

 

Temperature regulation
When we are in the water our temperature doesn't increase as much as during land exercise. Overheating has been theorised to increase the risk to babies, so keeping ourselves a bit cooler during exercise is a good thing.  It may also mean that you can work a little harder in the water

 

Other benefits:

  • people always tell me it is fun

  • people always tell me that it can be challenging but relaxing at the same time

  • people always tell me that they sleep really well after aqua classes

 

So what types of aquatic exercises are appropriate during pregnancy?
1. The obvious one is swimming laps but do try to avoid doing frog kick actions with your legs as these can tend to contribute to pelvic pain.
2. Adapt land based exercises in the water - squats/wall push ups
3. Walking/running/jumping
4. Use floats to add resistance to arm exercises
5. Exercises with noodles/kickboards
6. Core stability/pelvic floor exercises
7. the possibilities are enormous!

 

What should be avoided in pregnancy?
1. One legged/wide stepping type exercises can aggravate pelvic pain, so be careful or avoid
2. Frog kick/breaststroke kick actions
3. Movements that cause you pain. If you have pelvic pain use a pool buoy between your legs when swimming so that you don't have to kick your legs
4. Quick changes of position i.e. from being on your tummy to lying on back. These can lead to dizziness in some people

5. Use of excessive resistance with exercise - can lead to strain on pelvic floor/abdominals as well as risk of poor technique.

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