Just a few decades ago doctors were telling their pregnant patients to take it easy, rest up and avoid unnecessary exertion. Today the story is quite different, and most women are encouraged to exercise during pregnancy. The benefits are clear: it’s good for your overall health and the health of your baby, burning extra calories helps you keep a healthy weight, and maintaining fitness and strength makes delivery and recovery easier. Exercise also usually helps you sleep better and feel generally happier and more energetic.
Swimming is an especially good way to exercise, for many reasons, and you can do it right up until your due date if you have no complications with your pregnancy. Here are the top five reasons to swim while pregnant:
Swimming does it all. If you’re expecting, chances are your life is becoming more complicated, so if you have limited time and want to simplify your exercise routine to focus on one sport that will boost your all-around fitness, swimming ticks all the boxes. It provides a full-body workout that uses all the major muscle groups, building strength, power and flexibility. It increases your endurance and your recovery capacity, and it strengthens your heart, improves your circulation and boosts your body’s ability to use oxygen. Just what the doctor ordered!
Swimming is easy on your joints and ligaments. During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin that relaxes your ligaments to allow the uterus and pelvis to expand. It also enables the arteries to accommodate a higher blood volume and loosens the musculoskeletal system, resulting in more flexible joints and greater curvature of the spine. As a result, pregnant women are more susceptible to joint injuries. Swimming is a low-impact sport, so the risk of sprains and other injuries is minimized. The buoyancy of the water also decreases the strain on your back and allows you to feel almost weightless.
Cool water prevents overheating. When you’re pregnant, your breathing rate increases and you start sweating at a lower level of exertion, which is one of the body’s many adaptation mechanisms to protect the foetus from overheating. Although the risk of overheating to a dangerous level due to exercise alone is minimal (unless you’re doing a strenuous workout outdoors on a very hot and humid day), the increased blood flow and higher metabolic rate you experience during pregnancy will make you feel warmer when exercising. If you don’t enjoy this sensation, swimming is a good option because it cools you off.
Swimming can relieve nausea. Every pregnancy is different, and every pregnant woman has her own favourite tips for keeping nausea at bay, but many women who suffer from morning sickness report that swimming provides relief. Whatever the reason, whether it’s simply a result of the overall health benefits provided by exercise, or whether there’s a more specific physiological response to the movement itself or to the sense of relaxation that being in the water brings, there’s something about swimming that seems to help a lot of women feel better.
You can maintain your routine. At some point you’ll probably want to get a maternity swimsuit, but otherwise no great changes are needed to adapt a swimming workout to pregnancy. Although you shouldn’t dive, turns are fine for as long as you feel comfortable doing them, and you can continue to swim at a high level of intensity if you have the energy to do so. You can also keep doing all the strokes. Some trainers recommend the breaststroke in particular for the third trimester, as it helps strengthen the back and chest muscles.
In short, swimming will help keep both you and your baby healthier and happier. It’s the perfect sport for mums-to-be!
Have you swum while pregnant? What’s your verdict?