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What you need to know about exercise and pregnancy

Why pregnancy is the perfect time to get moving.

Being pregnant can make you look at life in a very different way. You’re seeing your future through different eyes and your priorities suddenly shift. Your health may become more important at this time, because you realise you want to be fit and strong to be able to care for and support an extra person for many years to come.

Australia is battling an epidemic of chronic health conditions. Around 35% of Australian adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 20% have two or more. How did we get into this situation and how do we get out of it?

One of the simple reasons is that we’re not getting enough exercise. This is largely due to sedentary work practices, or habits such as sitting in front of the TV or the computer for hours at a time every day.

Recent studies have shown us that Australians are spending a whole month per year watching TV – that’s an average of four hours a day. We spend almost a third of our lives at work, so if you have an office-based job, you could end up sitting for most of the week.

How a sedentary lifestyle impacts our health

Studies have also shown that lack of physical activity may be the cause of approximately 10% of breast and colon cancers. It’s also one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in Australia.

When you add in easy access to high-calorie food, it’s not surprising that more than 60% of Australians are classified as obese. This goes up to almost 70% for people living in regional and remote areas. Obesity increases the likelihood of gestational diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke, certain cancers, obstructive sleep apnoea and osteoarthritis.

If you’re someone who doesn’t normally exercise, becoming pregnant might be the motivation you need to rethink habits, so you can be around as long as possible for your growing family. By being active, you’ll have more energy, get stronger bones and muscles, you’ll decrease your chances of developing a chronic illness, and you’ll be more likely to live longer.

Simple changes you can make now

If you want to reboot your lifestyle, start off by keeping an activity and food diary for two weeks. Record everything you eat and drink each day and also your energy levels. Buy a cheap pedometer or wearable device to measure your activities.

Prior to starting a new routine, visit your GP for a general check-up to get the all-clear and talk about which exercises will be suitable during your pregnancy. Use a personal trainer to help you come up with a training plan. Or ask for a referral to a dietitian if you need advice on food choices.  You can claim a benefit towards a consultation with a dietitian as part of our Medibank Growing Family Packages.

Easy ways to get moving

The minimum activity level recommended is 30 minutes a day – this can easily be broken into three 10-minute walks.

To build up your level of physical activity during the day, aim to make lots of small changes, which combine to make a big difference. Here are some ideas:

  • Dance to your favourite music while cooking/doing chores.
  • Take the stairs, not the lift.
  • Go for a 10-minute brisk walk at lunchtime – it’s easily achievable and you may find lots of colleagues keen to join you!
  • If you have an office job, stand up every hour and stretch. You can also try holding standing or walking meetings.
  • Encourage colleagues to walk to each other’s desks instead of emailing.

Get into the habit of recording your new active lifestyle, noting changes in your mood, energy levels and daily activities. It’s nice to look back on your progress, and it’s a handy tool to bring along to any subsequent visits to a health practitioner.

Remember, all long journeys have to begin somewhere.

Each pregnancy is unique, Medibank recommends all members seek medical advice concerning their individual health, appropriate nutritional and fitness regime, prior to, during and post pregnancy.

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