02/10/2015 07:31 BST | Updated 01/10/2016 06:12 BST

The Benefits of Exercise in Pregnancy

Despite so much evidence highlighting the benefits of exercise recent reports show that only 23% of women exercise when they are pregnant.

Pregnancy is a great time for making healthier lifestyle changes, it's not just about giving up alcohol and soft cheeses but also about making positive lifestyle decisions that will benefit you and your baby.

'If you're suffering from pregnancy niggles such as tiredness, varicose veins, lower back pain, heartburn or swollen ankles you'll be surprised what a difference it makes to get up off the couch and get moving!

Giving birth is a very physical process and it helps to be prepared. Increasing your fitness levels can make all the difference when it comes to labour and will help speed up your recovery period as well.

Regular exercise during pregnancy will help you to maintain a healthy weight gain and most mums who carry on exercising regain their pre-baby figure much more quickly.

And if you're feeling positive about yourself, you'll have more energy for your baby too - it's win win all round!'

Even a modest amount of exercise during pregnancy will release those feel good endorphins, lift your mood and make it easier to sleep, reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Experts including the NHS and the Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians recommend at least 2.5 hours a week but you can start gently and build up. Even walking for half an hour a day will help raise your heart beat.

FittaMamma have prepared these simple guidelines for safe exercise in pregnancy!

Before you start:

  • Listen to your body - if your workout feels too intense slow down or stop. Don't overdo it, if you haven't trained before build up slowly, maybe 15-20 minutes a day to begin with.
  • Pregnancy isn't a good time to join a netball team or factor in a marathon - but that doesn't mean you can't take up Pilates, walk regularly or join a yoga class
  • Remember to stay hydrated - keep a water bottle handy
  • Stay cool! Pregnant women can overheat quite easily so exercise outdoors if possible and wear moisture-wicking clothes
  • Carry on talking! It's not a good idea to exercise beyond the level where you're too tired to speak.
  • Dress for exercise. Stretchy well-fitting exercise clothes that support your bump will be more comfortable and improve your confidence and motivation too
  • Avoid exercises that involve you lying on your front after the first trimester and avoid lying on your back after 12 weeks
  • Stay fuelled - don't exercise on an empty stomach and keep a few energy snacks handy - a banana, dried fruit or nuts are ideal
  • Ask your doctor or midwife before you start any regular exercise routines or if you have any concerns.
  • Make sure you warm up and cool down

FittaMamma's Mini Pregnancy Exercise Guides!

Keep your pelvic floor strong!

'If there's one exercise you should do without fail every day during pregnancy it's the pelvic floor lift 'You can do this anywhere at any time and no-one will even know!' Keeping your pelvic floor nice and strong will help during the birth and prevent stress incontinence afterwards.

What to do

  1. Pull in your pelvic floor muscles (as if you are trying to stop a bowel movement or a wee). Hold for 2 or 3 seconds then release. Repeat 3 times, building up to 10 repetitions.
  2. Increase the strength by pulling in the muscles one-third of the way. Hold, draw in the next third. Hold and finally pull all the way as tightly as you can. Release using the same three steps.
  3. Try these whilst sitting on a chair or a fit ball and vary by doing the exercises whilst standing

Work your core!

'Keeping your core tummy muscles strong during pregnancy helps during labour and can help to prevent diastasis (when the muscles of your tummy separate)as well,' say FittaMamma.com. 'Pelvic tilts can be carried out until the 3rd trimester. Don't be afraid to suck your tummy in, baby won't feel it!'

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What to do:

  1. Sit upright on your fit ball, shoulders back and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Breathe in deeply and let your chest expand. As you exhale, draw your belly button in so that you feel like you are wearing a tight corset
  3. Without moving your feet, tilt your pelvis forward and upward. Hold for a couple seconds and return to start position. Repeat 15-20 times and aim for 2 sets

Keep your legs strong!

'Maintaining strength in your legs is so important as your bump gets bigger and you are carrying extra weight. And it helps with your posture and balance too,' say FittaMamma.com. This exercise uses a fitness ball.

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What to do:

  1. Start with feet hip width apart and your fitness ball held between your back and the wall.
  2. Keep your hands on your hips, shoulders back and tummy muscles pulled in.
  3. Slowly squat down, bending your knees and rolling the ball down the wall until your knees are bent at approx. 90 degrees.
  4. Now slowly return to the starting position. Have a chair nearby for support, just in case you get stuck in your squat!
  5. Feeling strong? Make it harder by holding weights in each hand!

Repeat 15-20 times and aim for 2 sets.

Work your Abs!

'Abdominal hollowing on all fours will work your core muscles in a slightly different way and is a good pelvic floor exercise too, listen to your body when you're doing any activity when you're pregnant and stop if you feel uncomfortable.'

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What to do

Kneel on your mat, hands beneath your shoulder, knees hip width apart, back and neck straight

Breathe in deeply, exhale and draw your belly button in, pulling up your pelvic floor

Hold and release. Repeat 15-20 times. Make sure you don't arch your back as you pull in.

For more pregnancy workouts visit www.fittamamma.com