Never mind the bumps, you can still keep fit

EXERCISING during pregnancy might seem unnecessary or even risky, but one personal trainer begs to differ. Sarah Foster reports.

THE scene is familiar: Lycra-clad women going through the motions of an exercise class, some sweating while others faintly glow. They’re doing circuits – half press-ups and other movements designed for the legs and abs – and there’s a sense of camaraderie despite the odd grimace from all the effort. The only thing that’s different is that beneath the straining T-shirts are pregnant tummies of assorted sizes. This is Bumpercise..

While the idea of an exercise class for pregnant women isn’t new, the type offered tends to be things like yoga or Pilates – ideal for general toning and relaxation, but not necessarily to everyone’s taste. Bumpercise, by contrast, aims to be all things to all people – a complete overall body workout specially designed for those who are expecting or who have recently given birth.

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Sarah Owen, who teaches classes once a week in York, explains the format.

“It’s very specialised as you have to be very careful when you’re working with pregnant ladies,” she says. “We do a warm-up of cardio when we talk about our posture and how our pelvis is. We walk around the room and increase the heart-rate – they can do a little bit of jogging if they want – then I set the room up into circuits. It’s all about toning and strengthening the prone areas during pregnancy – that is, the areas of your body that are affected.”

A personal trainer, Sarah embarked on a specific ante and post-natal course before beginning Bumpercise. She felt there was an obvious market for her class. “I had a passion for it and I thought there was definitely a need for it,” she says. “It’s just to try and encourage people to exercise when they’re pregnant because the benefits are amazing.”

Despite the overwhelming consensus that physical fitness is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, it seems that when it comes to pregnancy, things become less clear. Sarah, a mum-of-four, has first-hand experience of this, having been advised against exercising by midwives.

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“I ignored them. I was careful and went with my intuition. I did what I felt was best for me at the time.”

According to NHS Direct and the National Childbirth Trust, it is not only acceptable, but advisable to keep active prior to delivery. Provided you avoid contact sports and things like horse riding, taking regular exercise can bring a wealth of benefits for both the mother and unborn baby.

“If you exercise during pregnancy you’re more likely to get your pre-pregnancy figure back faster,” says Sarah. “There’s also the concern about obesity during pregnancy – I talk about not eating for two – and it alleviates any symptoms like varicose veins and backache.

“You get more oxygen-rich blood via the placenta, which is better for the baby. You also cope with labour much better and are much less likely to need intervention.”

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Aside from the physical benefits, there are obvious psychological advantages to keeping fit: at a time when most women feel heavy and out of love with their body, what could be better than looking healthy and toned? On a more immediate level, the endorphins released can provide a much-needed boost to flagging energy.

Beginning Bumpercise, which has only been running since early this year, marks the latest milestone on Sarah’s long road as a fitness instructor. The 36-year-old, who lives in York and is married to Hugh, used to manage nurseries until the demands of her four children – Nathaniel, 12, William, ten, Milliani, four, and two-year-old Madison – convinced her that a change of career was required. She looked to fitness as the obvious choice.

“I’d always had an interest in it so I thought I would change my hobby into a career,” she says. “I re-trained as a gym instructor and I did the course throughout my pregnancy with my first daughter. She was four weeks early so she came the day after my practical exam.

“Giving birth is like a marathon so I think fitness has got to be the answer.”


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The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists recommends beginning with 15 minutes of continuous exercise three times a week, increasing gradually to 30 minute sessions, from four times a week to daily. 

The intensity should be sufficient to induce an increase in your heart and breathing rate but you should still be able to maintain a conversation.

Bumpercise is at Acomb Methodist Church, Front Street, Acomb, on Tuesdays from 6.15-7.15pm.

To book call Sarah on 01904 780355 or 07828 727539.