About 85% of women will become pregnant at some point in their lifetime. Exercise is an important aspect of growing a healthy baby inside you as well as for the mother's well-being. Most doctors recommend exercise throughout pregnancy if the mom is cleared to do so. There are many benefits of working out throughout pregnancy. There are also some do’s and don’ts to follow. If done right, keeping an active lifestyle throughout the duration of the pregnancy will lead to easier delivery and quicker recovery. As always, consult with a doctor before beginning or changing a fitness routine during pregnancy.
According to The Bump, the benefits of exercise of pregnancy include:
- Limits the risk of gestational diabetes - A type of high blood sugar, where your body doesn’t make or use all of the insulin it needs for pregnancy. This can have some serious side effects and health risks. Luckily, 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week, can greatly reduce the risk for gestational diabetes.
- Helps achieve labor and delivery goals - If you would like to have a vaginal birth, exercise during pregnancy can reduce the need for a cesarean birth. Stamina is also required for a vaginal birth, so being in shape will you help be prepared for it and hopefully make it easier. Working out while pregnant can also help you get back to your pre-baby way of life faster than if you were to stay sedentary.
- Keeps baby weight in check - Most women gain between 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. The doctor will determine what is healthy for you but gaining too much weight can lead to health problems. Staying fit during pregnancy helps achieve a balance between submitting to all the cravings and maintaining a healthy weight gain.
- Keeps baby’s weight in check too - Not only does mom need to gain weight at a healthy rate, so does baby. There is a fine line between being premature and underweight, to being overweight, which can lead to complications for the baby. This can cause more problems during delivery as well. Working out will help the baby gain the proper amount of weight as well.
- Increases your comfort level - Pregnancy workouts can reduce a condition called preeclampsia, affecting 5% to 8% of pregnancies, which can lead to swelling, fluid retention, and high blood pressure, and is profoundly serious. Walking and other exercise may also help reduce edema and improve circulation.
- Makes for a better baby - One study found that when moms consistently worked out throughout pregnancy, their toddlers had better motor and language skill development. Their teens also performed better in academics and sports compared to those kids born without being exposed to exercise.
Exercise in general makes you feel good, have more energy, sleep better, improved heart health, and increased self-confidence. So why not keep doing it while you are pregnant? As long as it is done safely and effectively, there is no need to skip the sweat sessions while creating a new life!
So now you know it’s good for you, but what should you do or not do?
Speaking from experience, as I’m in the process of growing human number three, the most important thing is to listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right or uncomfortable, stop doing it or try something else. There are really only a handful of exercises that should not be done, which include activities that have an increased risk of falling down - things like skiing, rollerblading, horseback riding (fast), gymnastics, etc - and activities that require you to hold your breath, like scuba diving, or certain weightlifting or yoga breathing techniques. You want your baby to get all the oxygen it can. Temperature-extreme workouts like hot yoga or cardio sessions in extreme weather- should also be avoided. Some women also get lightheaded when they lay flat on their backs, so instead of doing a regular bench press, opt for a machine chest press version or dumbbell incline chest press.
30 minutes of cardio activity three times a week is a great way to achieve some of those benefits. Swimming, walking or jogging, biking, or using the elliptical are all great ways to get that heart rate up a little. Upper and lower body weightlifting, as well as core work, is also a great way to grow a healthy baby and look good and feel good while you’re doing it. Just remember, keep hydrated, use common sense, get your doctors approval, don’t keep your heart rate super high for extended periods of time, and don’t let your internal core temp get above 98 degrees. As always, if you have questions, feel free to ask me or one of the other trainers; we would love to assist you! Otherwise, have fun and be proud of the miracle that is growing inside you by showing off those moves!