Exercising with your partner is one way to prepare for parenting, a personal trainer says. Mary Bacon specialises in preparing not only women but their partners too for the demands of pregnancy and parenting.

“Couples need to be fit and healthy to improve their chances of conceiving plus be better able to cope with the physical and emotional strain of a new baby,” Bacon says.

“I have couples who haven’t exercised in years, and other very fit couples who want to be the healthiest they’ve ever been before they try to conceive.”

Incorporate both cardiovascular and weights training, Bacon says.

Partners should encourage each other to exercise.

PRE-PREGNANCY

Bacon recommends making a concerted effort to get into shape at least six months prior to trying to conceive.

“A healthier couple will have a healthier baby,” she says. “When you’re training you end up making healthier lifestyle choices – you’re less likely to eat emotionally or have too much to drink.”

Exercise three or four times a week and incorporate both cardiovascular and weights training to prepare you for what’s ahead.

“Motivate each other to exercise,” Bacon says. “It’s amazing how a competitive edge emerges between some couples, whereas other clients hold hands while they do lunges or high five between push-ups.”

PREGNANCY

The benefits of exercising during pregnancy are widely recognised. “Exercise can be a therapeutic way to nurture yourself and look after your body during pregnancy – swimming and walking in particular are great,” Bacon says. She recommends tailoring your exercise routine to your trimester, taking into account age, weight and fitness level.

Women should focus on developing their core muscles and pelvic floor strength in particular.

“For both parents, exercise helps to reduce your stress levels and helps you sleep better,” she adds. Exercise could prepare people for parenting, Bacon says.

POST-PREGNANCY

“It’s important for both parents to be strong – they’ll be lifting prams and carrying the baby, and you need physical stamina to get up in the middle of the night to a crying baby,” Bacon says.

In the four to six weeks after the birth, however, Bacon stresses the importance of rest.

“My advice to new mothers is don’t rush into exercising,” she says. “Focus on the pelvic floor muscles by doing some gentle stretches – you could aim for 20 minutes daily to prevent aches and get the body ready for returning to normal exercise.”

Eating well is vital. “Variety is really important to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs,” Bacon says.

“I give my couples a food diary and monitor their diet over 10 days, then make suggestions.”

Making sure women are getting enough folic acid and iron is one of Bacon’s priorities. “Sources of folate include nuts, eggs, green leafy vegetables and breads,” she says.

Mary Bacon has released an e-book on staying fit during pregnancy: Pregnant, Fit and Fabulous.

Adapted from Mosman Daily, 25 Oct 2014