pregnancy | exercising in early pregnancy | pregnancy workout program | exercise program for pregnancy | pregnancy diet and exercise plan | balanced diet chart for pregnant lady

Fitness during Pregnancy | Padmashri Shanmugaraj

Fitness during Pregnancy

All you need to know about keeping fit while you’re expecting.

At some point, you’ve probably been reminded to “enjoy the journey”. That’s wise advice for most of life’s adventures, but it’s particularly true for the 40 miraculous weeks a woman will spend with a baby growing inside her. Every pregnancy is beautiful! Every pregnancy is unique.

Getting ready for pregnancy :

Are you getting enough protein, folic acid and Zinc? Most people are able to meet these requirements through their diet whereas some may need supplements. It is best to discuss this with your physician and a nutritionist.

Being overweight (having a BMI over 23) or obese (having a BMI over 27) raises the risk of some pregnancy problems such as high blood pressure, blood clots, miscarriage and gestational diabetes. You can reach a healthy weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise. A nutrition expert will help you with this.

Make sure your vaccinations are up to date and your medications (if you take any) are safe to continue.

If you consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes, it is best to stop right away.

Already pregnant? A healthy and varied diet is important at all times in life, more so during pregnancy. Many women who ‘eat for two’ with the thought of fulfilling their baby’s requirements end up gaining an excessive amount of weight. This increases the risk of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, difficult birthing, overweight newborns etc.

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommends, in the second and the third trimester, an additional 350 calories and 15 g proteins and a total of 30 g of visible fats need to be consumed. The recommendations also include higher levels of micronutrients like iron, folic acid, calcium, Vitamin A and Vitamin D. Hence, the diet should be nutrient-dense!

Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of it with whole grains and a quarter of it with a source of lean protein (lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, unpolished dals, soy foods, paneer, low-fat, organic milk, nuts and seeds), and to also have a dairy product at every meal.

Focus on fruits and vegetables, particularly during the second and third trimesters. Get between five and 10 tennis ball-size servings of produce every day. These colourful foods are low in calories and filled with fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Limit your intake of foods high in sugar, fat and salt such as all spreading fats (such as butter), oils, salad dressings, cream, chocolate, chips, biscuits, pastries, ice-cream, cake, puddings and carbonated drinks. Sugar contains calories without providing any other nutrients and can contribute to weight gain, obesity and tooth decay.

Having too much-saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the chance of developing heart disease. Try to cut down on saturated fat, and have foods rich in polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat instead for eg: nut butter/pastes and avocado. Limit foods containing added salt and don’t add salt in cooking or at the table.

Keep the consumption of caffeine and packaged foods to a bare minimum. Completely avoid consuming alcohol, raw meats, unpasteurised foods and fish with high levels of mercury (swordfish, shark, king mackerel).

Sample Meal Plan as per the Recommended Dietary Allowances as prescribed by the ICMR, updated in the year 2010. This meal plan provides :

  1. A) ENERGY – 2250 Kcal
  2. B) PROTEIN= 78 grams
  3. C) VISIBLE FAT=30 grams
Timing               Sample Menu
Early Morning A glass of milk,      6 Almonds + 2 walnuts
Breakfast 2 small plain parathas, 1 Katori mint Raita
Mid-Morning 1 glass banana-Raisins yoghurt + 3-4 Pistachios.
Lunch 1 medium bowl Carrot-Spinach soup, 1/2 K Aloo-Gobhi Sabzi, 1 K Moong Dal Tadka, 1 small chapati and 1 medium plate rice, 1 k Curd.
Evening Snack 1 Glass Ginger Lemonade, 1 K corn chaat
Dinner 1 bowl Ghiya-Drumstick soup, 1 k mixed curry, 3 small chapati
Post-Dinner 1 glass warm milk

*Consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.


During pregnancy, exercise should aim to:

  • increase heart rate steadily and improve circulation
  • keep the body flexible and strong
  • support and control healthy weight gain
  • prepare the muscles for labour and birth

If you were exercising before your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity as long as you are comfortable and have your doctor’s go-ahead. If you have any medical condition, it is very important to get your doctor’s opinion before exercising.

Some exercises to consider during your pregnancy are :

  • Brisk walking. If pre-pregnancy exercise levels were low, a quick stroll is a good way to start. Bear in mind that as pregnancy progresses, your centre of gravity changes, your sense of balance and coordination may be reduced.

  • Swimming: Choose a stroke that feels comfortable, and that does not overly strain or hurt you, for example, breaststroke. Avoid diving or jumping, as this could impact the abdomen. Avoid warm pools, steam rooms, hot tubs, and saunas.

  • Stationary cycling: It helps raise the heart rate without putting too much stress on the joints. The risk of falling is also low.

  • Yoga: As pregnancy progresses, skip positions that could cause you to overbalance or to hold your breath. From the 5th month of pregnancy, it is better to avoid poses that involve lying on the abdomen or flat on the back as this causes pressure on major veins and arteries and decreases blood flow to the heart. Avoid over-stretching as it could lead to injury.

  • Low-impact aerobics: Some aerobics classes are designed especially for pregnant women. This can be a good way to meet other pregnant women, as well as exercise with an expert. Low-impact aerobics limit stress on the joints, help maintain balance and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.

  • Squatting and pelvic tilts during the third trimester can help with birthing.

Eating a nutritious diet during pregnancy is linked to good foetal brain development, a healthy birth weight, and it reduces the risk of many birth defects. A balanced diet will also reduce the risks of anaemia, as well as other unpleasant pregnancy symptoms such as fatigue and morning sickness. In short, a healthy diet and an appropriate exercise regimen protect you and your growing baby.

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– Padmashri Shanmugaraj

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