Expat Health: Training When Pregnant

Sarah Shivnan is a British personal trainer living and working in Shanghai. In this regular blog, learn tricks and tips for healthier living in the big city.


I get a lot of queries from women regularly asking whether or not it is safe to exercise when pregnant. There are a lot of myths deterring women but if you follow the correct guidelines then there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t continue with your exercise program – many doctors even recommend it.

In general most clients will train up to seven and a half months, or even close to their due date, depending on how they feel. My pregnant clients always comment on how great they feel after exercising and those that exercise throughout their pregnancy then find it much easier to get back into their pre pregnancy shape after they give birth.

So here are a few key points to remember:

The main thing is to be sensible – about what you eat and what you do. Don’t push yourself – know your limits. You only need an extra 300 calories per day on top on what you regularly eat (roughly around 2,000 calories per day) so you are not exactly eating for two but you also shouldn’t be obsessing over your weight gain or trying to diet. Allow your body to change shape naturally and enjoy it.

You can still exercise three or four days a week – but go moderately, now is not the time for intense cardio.

Be aware of your heart rate when training, you can do longer duration at a lower intensity. Keep you heart rate around 120 – 150 beats per minute.

Don’t wear restrictive clothing or let your body overheat. Stay well-hydrated and take rests when you need to.

You can still lift weights and do resistance training. A lot of my pregnant clients enjoy using rubber bands but you can still squat, lunge, do kneeling push ups and use machines. As you get heavier you can modify to wall push ups. Keep it light with a higher number of reps.

From the second trimester onwards, don’t do any exercises lying on your back. There are ways of keeping your abs toned without lying directly on your back.

Make sure you regularly practice Kegels and pelvic tilts exercises. This is very, very important!

Follow your doctor’s guidelines for exercise and nutrition if special measures are required for both pregnant and post partum training.

Be aware of overstretching. During pregnancy your joints and ligaments have more elasticity – don’t push stretches further than you are used to.

Most of my clients can begin training again around four to six weeks post-pregnancy after getting the ‘all clear’ from their doctor (depending on whether or not it was a natural or c-section delivery)

The first few weeks of post partum training is focussed on core exercises, again be sensible in these first weeks, your body has been through huge changes so let it re-adjust at a steady pace.

A lot of clients naturally want to rush back into their pre-pregnancy shape and often feel frustrated. This is a sensitive time and keeping a positive body image can be difficult but losing weight or trying to diet isn’t healthy, especially when you’re breastfeeding. Surround yourself with moral support and other mothers for a support network. There are quite a few groups such as Bumps and Babes and Shanghai Mamma’s that are particularly useful for new expat mums.

When you are breastfeeding you need an extra 500 calories a day, so be aware that when you decide to stop breastfeeding you also have to re-adjust your calorie intake too. (Your body has been used to those extra 500 calories and once you stop breastfeeding you are no longer using them up and often women complain of further weight gain during this time).

Be aware of overtraining or overdoing cardio as this can have adverse affect on your breast milk. Also be aware of scheduling training around nursing, it’s not a good idea to breast feed directly after exercise.

As your baby gets a little older there are lots of fun exercises you can do with your baby which is a great idea if your schedule is busy or if you need a home program.

Email: [email protected]. Web: www.personaltrainingshanghai.com / www.shanghaibootcamp.com