If you are struggling to keep food down in the early stages of pregnancy or huffing and puffing just trying to get your shoes on in the later stages, exercising may be the last thing on your mind. Growing research however suggests that even something as simple as a walk around the block or a few yoga stretches in the living room can have big benefits for you and your baby.
For the mother, benefits include:
- Decrease in weight gain
- Reduced risk of complications while pregnant and during delivery
- Less low back and pelvic pain later in pregnancy
- Faster post-delivery recovery
- Lower blood pressure
- Staying regular (active body = active bowels)
- Boosted mood
- Increased energy and less fatigue
- Better sleep
For the baby:
- Decreased chance of premature delivery
- Improved cardiac function (lower heart rate and fitter heart at birth)
- Decreased incidence of obesity and diabetes
An important rule of thumb before beginning your prenatal exercise program is to consult with your physician. In general, it is safe to continue exercising if you were physically active before your pregnancy. Don’t feel like you need to exercise at your former level; do what is most comfortable for you now. If you did not exercise regularly before, you can still safely begin an exercise routine with the help of your health care provider.
After getting the all clear from your physician to continue with your exercise program, there are a few other items to keep in mind:
- Consider working with a Prenatal and Postpartum Exercise Specialist to ensure you are working out the safest way and to prepare your body for this next chapter.
- Re-evaluate your exercises during each trimester to support your baby’s growth. For example, during the second trimester you will want to begin to stop doing any abdominal twists or laying on your back.
- Avoid exercising in hot or humid conditions. Due to the physiological changes experienced during pregnancy, your body will no longer be able to exercise in higher temperatures.
- Studies have shown that 20 – 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3 – 4 days a week can be beneficial for both the mom and baby.
- Consider adding an easy 20-minute walk in each day in addition to your exercise. Bonus if you can get the walk in outside to enjoy some Vitamin D perks.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to limit dehydration.
- Make sure you are properly fueling your body for the extra calories burned during your workout. Consider working with a Registered Dietician to make sure you are getting the proper calorie balance.
- Avoid any exercises that could increase your falling risk like downhill skiing or horseback riding.
- Add in exercises to work on your pelvic floor muscles, strengthen your arms for holding your baby, and strengthening your legs to help with labor.
While being pregnant can introduce new cautions to your lifestyle, staying fit is recommended at all stages of life. The benefits are real and worth the effort. Consider making exercise part of your routine while pregnant in order to keep you and your baby healthy.