Staying Fit Through Pregnancy
Fitness and Pregnancy
If you are an avid exerciser, used to working out, pushing yourself physically to the limit, pregnancy can be a difficult time. Making the transition from non-pregnant and pushing-to-your-limit to pregnant and having-to-slow-down can be more difficult than you may expect. But staying fit and healthy is more crucial than ever during those nine months and the immediate 6-12 months after giving birth. Your fitness and health decisions are no longer just affecting you, therefore it’s important to have the knowledge you need regarding your health, exercising and pregnancy.
Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy
Do a simple google search of “personal fitness + pregnancy” and you’ll find study after study that supports exercising during pregnancy. The benefits are not only for the mother but extend to the baby as well. Exercise can help in the development of your baby’s heart and brain as well as benefiting your well-being, both physically and emotionally.
Benefits for Your Baby
1While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the benefits of exercising during pregnancy for your baby:
- A healthier heart – babies born to exercising moms usually show a lower resting heart rate after birth
- A normal birth weight – mom’s exercising usually lowers the baby’s birth weight
- Neurological development – the increased blood flow generated by mom’s exercise helps the baby’s brain to develop more quickly
- Reduced risk of respiratory distress syndrome – this applies to high-risk pregnancies
- 30% Reduction in the risk of gestational diabetes (which can have serious effects on your baby’s health both during and after pregnancy)
Benefits for Mom
The benefits of exercising during pregnancy for mom are many:
- Reduced incidence of lower back pain – back problems originating from pregnancy often do not go away after birth and can cause more serious problems later in life
- 30% Reduction in the risk of gestational diabetes – gestational diabetes is very, very serious and can lead to serious health problems for both mom and baby, lasting long after birth and often for the duration of life. Gestational diabetes have a high probability of turning into regular diabetes later for mom.
- Reduced likelihood of an unplanned C-section – C-sections are inherently dangerous and when unplanned or needed on an emergency basis can be traumatizing as well as dangerous for both mom and baby
- Lower incidence and reduced severity of depression – depression during pregnancy is exacerbated by hormones and post-partum depression is debilitating, hard to get under control and can be dangerous to both mom and baby
- Lower pregnancy weight gain – a lower weight gain (average of 25-45 pounds) during pregnancy helps mom by keeping both her and baby healthy and also helps mom lose her pregnancy weight more easily after birth
- 2Lower rates of pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Varicose veins
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
Physical Changes During Pregnancy
Pregnancy puts your body through some pretty massive changes. Some of these changes are visible and some are not. Regular exercising before, during, and after pregnancy has been shown to positively address these changes to varying degrees. (But even small, unnoticeable benefits are good, right?)
So what changes will your body undergo during pregnancy?
- 2Musculoskeletal System changes – pregnancy weight gain puts stress on your musculoskeletal system, which can often lead to joint pain
- Cardiovascular System changes – during pregnancy hormones are released that relax and decrease responsiveness in smooth muscle cells in mom’s blood vessels – this results in increased elasticity of the circulatory system
- Respiratory System changes – improves oxygen delivery to both mom and baby via lung function improvement
- Thermoregulatory System changes – decrease of mom’s body temperature is due to a decrease in her body’s normal temperature early in pregnancy
So What To Do, What To Do?
3“If you’re already active, keep at it but of course tone down the intensity as you get closer to your due date, and swap out any risky or extra-energetic routines for something safer and slower.” Monty Simmons
So what types of exercises are/are not safe for pregnancy?
- Do work out for 30 minutes a day
- Even 30 minutes of walking is good, just don’t exhaust yourself – as a rule, you should be able to carry on a conversation as your exercise; if not, it’s too strenuous
- Don’t do judo, hockey or cycling after 16 weeks
- Reduce the impact of your exercises, avoid contact sports, especially after 16 weeks
- Avoid sports where you could fall, such as road cycling, horse-riding or skiing
- Avoid exercises where you need to lie flat on your back for prolonged periods – the weight of your baby will press on the main blood vessels transporting blood back your heart, causing faintness
- Keep up your core stability – hip strengthening exercises, leg and back exercises will help support your structure, reducing stress on the upper back
- Swimming or water aerobics can help with lower back stress and pain
- Don’t do burpees
- Make sure you’re eating enough – stay hydrated to prevent blood thickening and overheating
- Consume around 350-450 more calories each day than before pregnancy; if you’re exercising this number should be higher
First Things First
As always, it’s important to consult with your doctor or other birth professional BEFORE starting, or continuing, an exercise program while pregnant. Although rare, there are conditions under which exercising can be more harmful than beneficial. Do not consider yourself to be the expert here! For both you and your baby’s health and safety don’t make decisions requiring medical expertise that you do not possess!
Staying Fit During Pregnancy
Pregnancy does not have to mean the loss of your progress or levels of fitness. You aren’t necessarily doomed to 9 months of no physical activity! 4You will need to adjust your expectations from making significant improvements in fitness to maintaining throughout your pregnancy. As long as you discuss your pregnancy and your fitness goals with your healthcare professional, and then with your personal trainer or instructor, and know what’s safe, what’s not, and what to look out for, you should be able to stay on your fitness track, bouncing back in no time!
1“Pregnancy Exercises: Benefits, Facts and Stats,” Dawn Harper, MD, https://www.aptaclub.co.uk/article/pregnancy-exercise-benefits
2“What You Need to Know about Pregnancy and Exercise,” Alexandra Link, https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/resource-center/exam-preparation-blog/2639/what-you-need-to-know-about-pregnancy-and-exercise
3“Personal trainer reveals the workouts It’s safe to do while pregnant and what you should avoid,” Unity Blott for MailOnline, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4271114/Trainer-reveals-workouts-s-safe-pregnant.html
4“Guidelines for Exercise Training During Pregnancy,” Paul Sorace, MS, https://www.afpafitness.com/research-articles/guidelines-for-exercise-training-during-pregnancy
“Research Articles: Guidelines for Exercise Training During Pregnancy”
“What Are the Benefits of Prenatal Exercise?”
“Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Put Their Trust in Unqualified Trainers”
“Exercising Safely During Pregnancy”
“What Is the Best Workout for Pregnant Women?”
Image Credit: www.rewardme.in