During pregnancy, while rest and relaxation are very important, the need for a well-planned, careful exercise routine is as imperative. Research has shown that exercise throughout pregnancy has the following benefits to mom and baby…
Reasons to exercise during pregnancy
- It can help you sleep better.
- It can help ease some of the pregnancy-associated discomforts such as lower back pain.
- It can help regulate bowel functioning.
- It reduces stress.
- It can help with circulation, and keep down swelling of ankles.
- In some cases, babies have a lower heart rate during pregnancy and a healthy body weight when their moms have exercised during pregnancy.
- Research has shown that babies born to exercising moms had more mature brain function than those born to less active moms.
- It helps moms maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes (GDM), gestational hypertension, obesity and preeclampsia. Gestational diabetes is classified as diabetes that develops for the first time during pregnancy. It has been shown that GDM has been reduced by 51% in women who participate in physical activity during pregnancy. Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy and preeclampsia is an additional complication of high blood pressure. Exercise also helps to reduce the risk of obesity not only in the mother, but also reduces the risk of the baby developing obesity.
- It increases aerobic fitness and energy levels. This increased energy allows a mother-to-be to participate in normal activities of daily living with more ease and less fatigue. The additional energy assists with endurance, which in turn helps women better endure labour.
- Exercise also elicits the secretion of endorphins (happy hormones) which help women to feel happier and better able to deal with the challenges of pregnancy, as well as to help elevate and stabilise mood. Exercising also helps to improve sleep and anxiety.
In keeping with the above, the importance of selecting an appropriate exercise routine should be discussed with your primary healthcare professional (gynae/midwife). Unless there’s a medical condition that precludes you from doing so, activities such as swimming, brisk walking, low-impact gym and light jogging (if you’re already a runner) are safe and beneficial.
“Pregnancy can add additional stress on the body and having a well-planned exercise regimen can assist with the management of this.”
The United States Department of Health and ACOG recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week or 30 minutes of moderate leisure-time activity on most days of the week for women during pregnancy and in the postpartum period.
Strengthening core muscles will help to better support the changing shape of your body, as well as help carry the added weight of the baby. Exercise will also help to improve your balance to adapt to the shift in gravity, and improve posture and muscle strength.
Pelvic floor muscles are the powerhouse muscles during pregnancy and birth, so it is crucial to know where your pelvic floor muscles are and how to activate them correctly. The added weight of the baby can put huge additional force and stress on these muscles causing them to be inactive and weaken. Weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to urinary incontinence and pelvic floor prolapse. Exercise professionals such as biokineticists can help prevent these conditions by designing appropriate programmes.
Joining a group exercise class such as those offered by Fit 4 Two allows pregnant moms to exercise and connect with women who are experiencing similar things.
So, get out that sweat towel, leg warmers or baggy yoga pants, and put your best foot forward for the sake of your – and your baby’s – health. Remember, try find something you enjoy doing so that it’s less a “chore”, and rather something that you’re happy to stick to.