December 19, 2018
Now, before you throw on those running shoes, let me clarify. If you are a couch potato that has never even been to the gym, I’m not suggesting that you jump off that couch and register for your first bodybuilding competition while pregnant. The same goes for running. If you have never taken a jog around the block, perhaps your first trimester of pregnancy is not the time to commit to your first half-marathon. No, what I’m talking about is moderate physical activity to help you and your baby get the most out of your pregnancy and ensure a safe and healthy labour and delivery.
5 Reasons To Exercise During Pregnancy
The average amount of weight gained in a typical pregnancy for a normal-weight woman is 25-35 pounds. This weight is comprised of a number of things including the weight of the baby (25%) as well as the placenta, amniotic fluid and changes to maternal tissues which make up the other 75%. Underweight women may gain up to 40 pounds without concern and overweight women should gain less than the recommended 25-35 pounds. During the first trimester, relatively no weight gain is expected. As you move into the second and third trimesters, the recommended maternal weight gain is around 1lb a week.
Why is this important? Gaining the right amount of weight is essential to the mother and the fetus. Gaining too little weight during pregnancy increases the risk of having a low birth-weight baby. It can also contribute to heart disease and diabetes later in life. Excessive weight gain can cause an increase in the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes for mom, the potential for a difficult delivery and a risk of Caesarean section, as well as the risk of having a high birth-weight baby. The safest way to ensure that excess weight is not gained during pregnancy is through regular exercise. Try committing to at least 30 minutes a day of light physical activity including a brisk walk or light jog, light weight training, cycling, swimming or yoga.
Improved Maternal Fitness
Exercise during pregnancy will help to maintain your muscle tone and strength which may come in handy when you need the endurance and stamina to get through labour. Not only that, continuing to engage in light exercise through pregnancy may help to get back in shape after labour. Many women worry about exercising too soon after delivery, but as long as your doctor deems it is medically safe to do so, its good to keep a routine going. Just remember to listen to your body and do what feels right!
Easier Labour and Delivery
Studies have shown that the fitness level of a mother can result in a shorter labour, fewer medical interventions and less exhaustion during labour. Regular exercise can help strengthen your cardiovascular system, which will help to give you the energy you need to get through stressful times. Many women who exercise prior to pregnancy and continue to exercise during pregnancy are able to cope with the stress that often accompanies labour. Try exploring pelvic floor exercises, breathing techniques and yoga to help strengthen the pelvic area and prepare for a labour and delivery free of complications.
Better Posture, Reduced Back Pain and Increased Mood
Some women find that they experience backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling of the body during pregnancy. As your body changes, you may find that your centre of gravity changes which can in turn cause back pain. Exercise helps to reduce back pain and swelling, particularly if you maintain good posture and form while engaging in exercise.
Along with reduced back pain, many women find that exercising helps to increase energy, boost your mood and improve sleep. Many women find that the hormonal changes in their body cause them to feel more tired and experience mood swings, particularly in the first and third trimesters. Exercise can help to manage these symptoms, as long as you don’t overdo it.
Reducing the Risk of Diabetes and Reduced Blood Pressure
Approximately 5-10% of pregnant women experience high blood pressure during pregnancy. If you’ve been diagnosed with preeclampsia or hypertension you may want to consult a healthcare practitioner before exercising, but studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. Paired with a healthy diet, exercise helps to reduce blood glucose levels and insulin, reducing risks and complications associated with preeclampsia, hypertension and gestational diabetes.
A Few Precautions:
As I mentioned before, pregnancy is not the time to start a new physical activity that is intense and requires a great deal of physical exertion. Always check with your doctor if you are unsure about starting any sort of physical fitness while pregnant, but the chances are that your doctor will support you 100% in your efforts.
Always wear loose fitting clothing and avoid overheating. An increase in your body temperature can affect the baby’s development so it is always good to be aware of your temperature. Drink plenty of fluids and take rests when necessary to avoid overheating.
Be cautious that as your pregnancy progresses, your centre of gravity may shift making you more prone to falls. If this is a concern to you, try participating in activities that do not put you at risk to slip and fall like swimming and low impact aerobics.
The most important consideration is to listen to your body. Don’t be hard on yourself if you just can’t bring yourself to jog 3km today. Take things one day at a time and remember that your body is working in high gear to give your baby the energy it needs to grow. Be mindful of how your feeling and make the conscious effort to incorporate at least 30 minutes of light to moderate physical activity into every day. You and your baby will thank you for it!