Exercise During Pregnancy: Warming Up and Cooling Down
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You might consider trying to squeeze in the time or energy for a quick walk or swim while you are pregnant to be hard enough, so the idea of adding in a warm up and cool down might seem too much. However, you should never try to skip them from your routine, it's an important part of being a healthy living mum to be. If time really is that tight then you should reduce the time spent doing your chosen exercise so that there is time to fit in these important stages.
Why is it important to warm up when doing pregnancy exercises?
Gradually increasing your heart rate and circulation is a much safer way to exercise rather than surprising your body with a sudden period of physical exertion. Embarking on exercise without warming up properly means that your body will not be able to pump oxygen and nutrients around your body (and to the baby) efficiently.
Increasing the circulation before you put too much impact on your limbs and joints means that your muscles have time to warm up and it will make you less prone to injury.
In addition to this, warming up will increase the amount of oxygen in your body which in turn will give you more energy for your exercise.
Why is it important to cool down when doing pregnancy exercises?
The aim of cooling down is to gradually bring your heart rate and breathing to their normal level. If you were to simply stop exercising abruptly and go home or sit down then this would cause blood to get trapped in the muscles and reduce the blood supply to other parts of your body, including your baby. As with warming up, cooling down will also reduce your chances of injury and post-exercise aches and pains.
How to warm up safely during pregnancy
Allow at least 5-10 minutes at the start of each workout to warm up. Do very light aerobic exercise, for example walking, or some gentle paddling if you are in the swimming pool. Break up this light exercise with stretching exercises.
Stretching in itself is a very beneficial exercise for pregnant women, and many pregnancy-specific exercises classes are based around stretching, such as pregnancy Pilates and yoga. Stretching as many muscle groups as possible will do you good although it is particularly important to pay attention to those muscle groups which you will be putting to work during your exercise. For example, if you are going for a brisk walk, ensure that you stretch out your legs. If you are swimming, remember to stretch out your shoulders and arms. Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds.
How to cool down safely during pregnancy
You should place as much importance on cooling down as you on warming up. Again, you should allow 5-10 minutes to do this and spend the time doing very light aerobic activity; walking, paddling or marching on the spot are good examples, depending on your location. Intersperse this activity with the same stretches that you started your workout with. This part of your routine should not be difficult or strenuous, and you should find that it helps you to feel calm and relaxed. Remember that if you are doing any stretches on the floor, you need to get up slowly and carefully to avoid dizziness.