by Haylley Pittam
As water fitness instructors, it is quite common for us to have a pregnant woman or two attend our classes. They may be there because the doctor/midwife has suggested they attend or they may be there on their own accord. Pregnant participants are categorized as a ‘special populations group’ and can include women who are going through treatment to help them conceive.
Attending an Aqua Aerobics/Fitness class is particularly effective for the natal and post-natal woman as it offers a wide range of therapeutic and health benefits without the hard impact of land exercise. Regardless of an individual’s current fitness level, aquatic exercise allows each workout plan to be personalized by changing the speed, intensity or amount of rest based on the participants needs. It is ideal for cross-training workouts, simple to advanced fitness workouts, as an aid to recovery from injury or management of chronic conditions.
In comparison to land exercise, it is far safer for mother and fetus to exercise in the water. Being in the water supported by the buoyancy, the mother-to-be can literally take weight off her feet and feel weightless as she exercises. With the hydrostatic pressure assisting venous return, there is an increased blood flow and oxygen up-take to both mother and baby, without having to exert a lot of effort and become breathless and fatigued.
The assistance of blood traveling back up to the heart helps with swelling (oedema) and varicose veins, which can easily occur during pregnancy. The calming influences the water has on the nerves of the body means that their sympathetic nervous system relaxes and their body and mind can be more at rest. If this is following a busy day at work or running around after the older children or even if they are just feeling emotional, anxious and stressed, this time can be really soothing for them.
During this period of time where the woman is either becoming pregnant, being pregnant or preparing for labor and birthing, some can experience little changes whereas others can be very complex and severe. This can have serious consequences if exercise programs are not safely designed.
For example, if the woman developed gestational diabetes or their placenta was low lying (placenta previa) their training regium would look very different from one another. If they have joined in with the regular aqua class, this would mean you as the instructor would need to give them a fair amount of your attention as you modify and adjust the exercises accordingly.
America College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (ACOG) recommends a pregnant woman is to exercise for 150 minutes per week, with the aim to reduce issues such as obesity, diabetes and other health concerns.
Pregnant women who are already active should be encouraged to maintain their physical activity levels with adaptions made over the course of the 40 weeks.
The 150 minutes of physical activity is not to start training to run a marathon nor push their training program to achieve their personal best or working in high heart rate zones but instead to focus on maintaining their fitness level, strengthen postural muscles and to help keep them mobile ready for the birth.
We must consider that birthing a child is the equivalent to running 3 marathons as labor can continue over a few days and these pregnant individuals need to be fit and strong for this event. We need to prepare their body for labor and birthing and the series of exercises to do this are very different to marathon training. During their time in the pool our goal is to help guide them to be gentle on their body yet keep them fit in preparation of the challenge ahead.
Despite all these reasons, the common statement from the women is to manage pregnancy weight gain, not become too big and leading to societies expectations of bouncing back to pre-pregnancy weight within weeks of giving birth. Though weight is one reason the women may want to keep exercising the other is their mental health especially for those women who participated in regular land-based classes and can no longer attend.
Teaching a specific Aqua Natal class is absolutely lovely, they form a community and support network as they meet women on the same journey as themselves. Watching them relax, almost melt into the water and yet keep fit and active is a joy especially as they waddle onto poolside in their third trimester. One of my pregnant ladies once told me that they enjoyed these classes so much more than the other pregnancy classes she attended as she was able to achieve more and felt great when she got out of the water.
Aqua Natal exercise combines the therapeutic properties of the water with unique techniques and moves to work the whole body in a holistic manor, giving the individual huge benefits.
Benefits of Aqua Natal
Improves ability to cope with the stress of delivery
Quicker post-natal recovery
Reduced risk of medical conditions
Decreases pregnancy tiredness
Helps with regular bowel movement
Prepares body for demand of labor
Helps maintain constant blood glucose levels
Assists venous return which also helps alleviate oedema
Increases blood flow and oxygen up-take to both mother and baby
Helps reduce pregnancy-associated long-term memory impairment
Increases cardiovascular strength
Increases muscular strength & endurance
Improves pregnancy posture
Reduces back ache
Social aspect of the class
Mental health benefits – for pre & post-natal
Less fat on baby
Would you like to fully know and understand the changing body during the different trimesters of these pregnant participants and how the water affects them? Can you adjust the class workout to be safe and effective for them, their baby and their pelvic floor?
At AREA, we host an online Aqua Natal course on our website. Once booked on to the Aqua Natal online course you may begin your education/learning, there are 7 pre-recorded video presentations with a manual (13.5 hours) and 7 multiple-choice quizzes. Designed so you can self-pace your learning and fit it around your lifestyle. There will be two 20-45 minutes live video calls/phone calls with an AREA tutor, for any additional help if required or for any learning difficulties. An assessment of a lesson plan and a video submission of teaching the lesson is required to demonstrate competency. You have 18 – 24 months to complete from booking.
This course enables you to teach specific Aqua Natal classes in which you can increase your earnings as well as increase your skills and knowledge as an instructor. The fact that this is an untapped market within the fitness industry means you have huge potential to grow your business and have a new target audience you can offer training to.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Haylley Pittam is the co-Founder of A.R.E.A. and an Aquatic specialist with over 18 years expertise in the health and fitness industry. Haylley is a very experienced personal trainer, aquatic fitness instructor, swimming coach, GP referral consultant and is also a Vibration Training Specialist. Highly qualified, her main areas of focus include Pre & Post Natal, Pelvic Care, Stroke therapy and Diabetes. She teaches both swimming and aqua aerobics to elite and recreational athletes.
In addition Haylley has written and delivered specialist workshops, accredited by CIMSPA all around the UK and internationally for A.R.E.A.
And learn more about A.R.E.A.:
On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aquatic.rehab.exercise.academy
Learn more about Haylley and her work in aquatics by listening to her podcast episode on the Aquaholics Bootcamp.