A PT Shares Her Advice For Staying Active In Pregnancy & Beyond
A PT Shares Her Advice For Staying Active In Pregnancy & Beyond

A PT Shares Her Advice For Staying Active In Pregnancy & Beyond

There are endless reasons to stay active whilst trying to conceive, during pregnancy and throughout the postpartum period – from improving your mood and sleep to reducing the risk of complications – but it’s also an area where fear, myths and misinformation are commonplace. Ahead of the launch of her new book, ‘The Bump Plan’, we sat down with pre- and postnatal PT Hollie Grant to find out more about moving safely and building a stronger body at this stage of life.

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Know The Benefits

“Building a strong body ahead of conception and staying active during pregnancy have vast proven health benefits, both physically and mentally. Aside from the general health gains we all take from physical activity; it also has pregnancy-specific advantages. Not only can it make being pregnant feel more comfortable and progress more smoothly, it also lessens the risk of gestational diabetes, improves cardiovascular fitness and reduces your risk of pregnancy-related blood pressure issues. It can also reduce labour times, improve postnatal recovery times, and boost postpartum mental health. Staying strong during pregnancy can help you feel empowered and capable ahead of one of the toughest endurance events of your life (labour, and then parenthood). If you think of pregnancy as the longest marathon you’ll ever run, labour being the hardest, and parenting the most unpredictable, we can see that training for these events is key. If you can start thinking about your fitness whilst trying to conceive, you’ll be off to a good start.”

If you think of pregnancy as the LONGEST MARATHON YOU’LL EVER RUN, labour being the hardest, TRAINING FOR THESE EVENTS IS KEY.

Keep It Up

“It’s understandable women might feel nervous about exercising during pregnancy. For some, the road to conception is long, and we can be anxious to do anything that may have a negative impact on our babies. Sadly, a common myth that seems to linger is exercising during pregnancy is dangerous, selfish or irresponsible, and this is one of the main reasons that the statistics for active pregnancies are as low as they are. Many health professionals aren’t always clued up on the current guidelines, which can lead to misinformation and scaremongering. The main questions I’m asked are if it’s safe to run, lift or jump when pregnant (the answer is yes, for most women), and if exercise can cause premature labour (there is no evidence to suggest a link between physical activity and premature labour, low birth weight, or negative outcomes).”

Aim For 20 Minutes A Day

“The current UK Chief Medical Officers (CMO’s) Guidelines are that healthy pregnant women aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, and muscle strengthening activities twice per week. When we say moderate intensity, this means any form of movement that gets the heart rate lifted but would still allow you to hold a conversation. If you were active before pregnancy, continue as before. If you were previously inactive, start gradually and build up as you feel more confident. This might look like a 20-minute workout, walk or swim a couple of days a week, and then building up the length and frequency over time. Whilst I prefer to focus on what we can do during pregnancy, there are some tweaks that may need to be made to your usual training. The first is to avoid contact sports like rugby and horse riding. Also avoid training at altitude, scuba diving, and try not to lie on your back for too long from your second trimester. When you do this, the weight of your uterus presses on major blood vessels that can affect blood pressure.”

Hollie Grant

Keep An Eye On Your Heart Rate

“The guidelines for physical activity during pregnancy don’t change throughout the nine months – i.e., you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise whether you’re six weeks pregnant, or 36 weeks pregnant. What will change, however, is that what felt moderate intensity at week six will feel very different to week 36. For example, you may have been able to run 5k in 32 minutes at six weeks pregnant whilst still being able to hold a conversation (our clue we are training at a moderate intensity) but at 36 weeks you needed to run 5k in 50 minutes. From an intensity point of view, it’s worth listening to your body, and how you may need to adapt your training to meet these guidelines.”

“There is NO EVIDENCE to suggest a LINK BETWEEN PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND PREMATURE LABOUR, low birth weight, or negative outcomes.”

Use It Or Lose It

“Aim for 150 minutes of weekly activity, but keep it varied. You don’t want to be doing one specific form of cardiovascular fitness (jogging, for example), and nothing else. Yes, you will get better at jogging, but that’s not going to help you when you’re holding a sleeping baby and your arms feel like they might drop off. In an ideal world, we want mothers that are not only cardiovascular fit, but also who have the muscle strength and endurance to effectively perform the activities they need to – think constant lifting (your baby out of their cot), squatting (during labour or later, to get down to their level), hip hinging (wiping things off the floor), and endurance (for rocking to sleep). Remember, babies only get heavier, too.”

Here, Hollie shares her advice for exercising safely in each trimester…


Don’t Be Hard On Yourself
“It is extremely important to listen to your body in the first trimester, and do what feels right for you. Anecdotally, I know many women who had mild nausea and vomiting who found moving their body gave them a boost. Others with more severe nausea may find movement makes them feel worse, and more motion leads to vomiting. Either way, do not pile pressure on yourself, and do not compare yourself to others. Hang in there – it will get easier, and exercise will be there waiting for you.”

Focus On Your Core
“Given the biggest change to a woman’s body during pregnancy is her abdomen (the womb grows up and out, hence the bump), the core is an important area to consider. Several muscles make up your core, but it’s your transversus abdominis you should focus on. It’s one of the main stabilisers of the core, helping to support your organs and stabilise the lower spine and pelvis. If you can maintain a functional transversus abdominis, you’ll have more support as your bump gets heavier, and this can prevent changes to your posture. If this muscle is strong, it’ll help the rest of your abs adapt to pregnancy.”

Give Your Pelvic Floor Some TLC
“As the uterus gets bigger, it gets heavier, and the demand it places on the pelvic floor increases. This is because one of its main roles is to support the weight of the pelvic organs – the uterus being one of these. Starting pregnancy with a strong pelvic floor can reduce the risk of stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse further down the line. At this stage, what’s most important is that you’re moving away from the ‘hold-in-a-wee’ technique that so many of us have adopted – it’s not thorough enough. Instead, you need to learn how to activate the entire pelvic floor – think of it as a diamond shape with four corners. Imagine the pelvic floor as a tissue, trying to pick up each corner, repeating five times – do this daily.”

Always Warm Up
“During pregnancy, the body isn’t a massive fan of big, rapid changes, so to go from zero activity to suddenly jumping around your living room for 30 minutes can be a shock to the system and you may feel light-headed or nauseous. Aim for a less intense version of the exercise you’re about to do to gradually raise the heart rate.”


Strengthen Glutes & Hamstrings
“A strong, resilient pregnancy body has a strong posterior chain – think your calves, hamstrings, glutes and spine. Lunges, glute bridges, and squats are great, so make sure these movements feature in your twice-weekly strength workouts.”

Stop If You Feel Pain
“Round ligament pain – experienced as short, sharp spasms in your lower bump or groin area – is common in the second trimester and can come as a shock. While harmless, it’s caused by the stretching of the uterus and surrounding ligaments – it’s often described as feeling like an elastic band snapping. If you experience this during a workout, rest and wait for it to pass, before restarting the exercise.”

Incorporate Mobility
“Leg cramps at night are one of the most common and annoying symptoms I hear about from Bump Plan members. You may also find there’s tension in your calves the next day because of it. Calf and ankle mobility exercises during the day can make a difference – such as calf raises and ankle circles – as well as generally staying active.”

Reduce Sedentary Time
“As your uterus grows, taking up more space, and your ligaments relax, this can cause changes to your joints and posture that lead to lower back pain. Staying on top of your core strength and being mobile can make all the difference.”


Get To Learn Your Triggers
“As with the move from the first trimester to the second, there are no sweeping changes in how you should move your body when transitioning from the second to the third. However, you may find certain positions or movements start to become uncomfortable or too challenging. Pain in the pelvis is common, for example. If you suffer with pelvic pain, get support from a health professional – getting support early can make a difference. Regardless of the cause of pelvic pain, you don’t have to stop moving your body. In fact, sitting for too long and not being physically active can make it worse. There are almost always alterations that can be made to your training to ensure it stays comfortable, and what is most important is that you enjoy moving your body rather than dreading it.”


Go Slow
“Traditionally, women have believed they shouldn’t do any exercise until their six-week GP check-up. However, anyone that’s been to a six-week check will know there’s a lot to cover in this appointment, and there isn’t always time to check for diastasis or prolapse. Therefore, I stress everyone is different and needs to focus on their journey and not compare to others. Some women may have been active during pregnancy, had a smooth vaginal birth, have lots of support at home, and feel really good. They may feel ready to get back to moving their bodies after a couple of weeks. Others may have had a tough pregnancy, a traumatic assisted birth, little support at home, and not feel ready to move their bodies again until 12 weeks. This is also why the CMO’s guidelines do not state a specific timeline.”

Start With The Pelvic Floor
“In the first few weeks, start your pelvic floor exercises as soon as you feel comfortable; practice deep core stimulation; include some gentle stretching in your day; and practice breathwork to stimulate the core and pelvic floor. Pelvic floor exercises can help speed up recovery by increasing blood circulation to the area and taking the pressure off any tears and surrounding tissue. You may find at first you don’t ‘feel’ much happening, as the muscles will have stretched and lost some of their tone. Don’t panic – this is normal. But with stimulation, the muscles will gain strength and tone again. Relay any concerns you may have, regarding pain or incontinence, to your GP and ask for a pelvic health referral if something isn’t right. You know your body better than anyone.”

Be Gentle
“The most obvious sign you’re doing too much, too soon, is a change in your lochia (postpartum bleeding). For most women, bleeding gradually reduces in intensity as time goes on. However, if you’re overdoing it, you may see an increase in the volume of blood or see clots. If this happens, tell your midwife or GP immediately. If you’re doing too much physical activity too soon, you may also feel extremely drained, or aches and pains may worsen. If you have a scar (caesarean or vaginal), you might find it feels tender or looks more red. Listen to your body and scale things back when needed – there is no rush.”

The Bump Plan by Hollie Grant is out now. For more information on Hollie’s online platform, The Bump Plan, or to start your prenatal fitness journey, visit TheBumpPlan.com. Enter at any stage of your pregnancy and you’ll gain access to an extensive library of specially designed workouts. Your first seven days are free.

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