Aqua natal exercises offer mothers-to-be an opportunity to train safely and effectively from the 12th to the 40th week of pregnancy

Most pregnant women, especially first time mothers, seem reluctant to exercise during pregnancy. The physiological changes that occur during pregnancy are seen to inhibit exercise.

For those who have never exercised before, starting at this stage in their life seems almost like an impossible task. To make things easier and comfortable for pregnant women there are aqua natal classes.

Aqua natal is basically water aerobics for the pregnant women. It gives them an opportunity to exercise safely and effectively from the 12th to the 40th week of pregnancy.

Paula Miller, certified aqua natal instructor and midwife at the Pyramids, Wafi City, says, "The joints receive support in water which makes it the ideal medium to exercise in. The great thing is you don't need to know swimming since all the exercises can be done with the feet on the pool floor."

Paula explains that the buoyancy, hydrostatic pressure and natural resistance of water, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy make this form of exercise quite achievable and not as tiresome.

"The buoyancy relieves stress on weight-bearing joints and gives freedom of movement. The hydrostatic pressure gives a gentle massage to the body while exercising and reduces the swelling that is commonly seen on the lower limbs. The resistance of the water provides a low impact workout, muscular endurance as well as strength and flexibility," she says.

"Also, by being in water, women naturally maintain a better posture and strengthen their core muscles," she adds.

The class, usually an hour, begins with a warm-up, which includes gentle stretching for a few minutes. It follows with a modified cardiovascular section including exercises designed specifically for strengthening the muscles that come into play during labour.

"This class includes a session to strengthen the abdominal and pelvic muscles. The idea is to have fun and enjoy being in water. There is no race, since no two women will be at the same gestation stage," says Paula.

She adds, "An aqua natal class is structured specifically for a pregnant woman. If anyone is participating in a general aqua class be sure to tell the instructor that you are pregnant."

Taking these classes at least three times a week at a comfortable level is recommended. "Aqua natal has many benefits. Though it is a low impact workout it is as effective as going to the gym, but more fun," says Paula.

Some of the benefits of aqua natal classes:

  • No muscle pain the next day, as can be commonly seen in other exercise mediums.

  • Provides low impact workout that will not strain the weight-bearing joints and back.

  • Friendships are formed and there is strong antenatal support after the baby is born.

  • Helps prepare for labour.

  • Working heart rate in water is lower than training on land.

  • Resistance of water ensures a pregnant woman does not work beyond her capacity.v
  • Promotes awareness of pelvic floor muscles.

  • Assists post-natal recovery.

  • Reduces back pain.

  • Improves awareness of the posture and body.

  • Improves coordination and balance as centre of gravity changes.
  • Promotes healthy weight gain.

  • Hydrostatic pressure improves blood circulation and decreases water retention common to pregnancy.

  • Helps sleep better.

  • Promotes overall well-being.