In recent years, more extensive research has been collected and analyzed regarding exercise and pregnancy, resulting in new findings and improved understanding among experts. As the saying goes, “the past is the past.”
TODAY, we know better!
Exercise is “OK” for pregnant women, and more often than not, exercise is encouraged! (**Given a “normal” uncomplicated pregnancy).
Let’s start with the FACT that regular exercise, at moderate to somewhat higher intensity levels, during pregnancy, is proven to have positive health benefits for both the mother and the fetus. These benefits can include, but are not limited to the following:
fewer symptoms of nausea, fatigue, leg cramps, constipation
reduced incidence of pelvic & back pain, and general body discomfort
prevention of excessive weight gain & varicose veins; shorter & less complicated labor
quicker recovery postpartum
reduced incidence of premature & cesarean deliveries
improved self-esteem , confidence, & body image
elevated mood & energy levels
decreased feelings of stress, anxiety, & depression
greater placenta growth & functional capacity
lower birth weight, still within healthy range
better tolerance during periods of lower oxygen delivery
reduced risk of distress during periods of decreased uterine blood flow
While it is not advised to go from 0 to 60, and start training for a marathon or the olympics, it is also not advised to become one with your couch! In actuality, inactivity is the real problem, and can lead to more complications, such as excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pain and discomfort. Sedentary women are also at a higher risk for C-Sections and more intrusive labor.
If you are new to exercise, there is no reason you can’t start an exercise regimen – you just need to start slow, and you may need to modify more often. Working with a personal trainer 1-on-1 or small group setting, or participating in a group fitness class, can help ease this transition, provide support, and reduce any overwhelming or anxious feelings that are common when trying new, unfamiliar things. Of course, you will want to consult your health care provider first.
If you are already active, you can continue your exercise regimen, but should still consult your health care provider. Typically, you can continue to do the same activities, but it is important to make sure you listen to your body, as it goes through changes during the pregnancy, and modify your workouts accordingly. Working with a fitness professional can also be a good option, for active women, to ensure proper techniques, appropriate intensity & modifications, and provide support, motivation & accountability. It is important to know that activities, that increase your risk of falling, should be avoided during pregnancy. Overheating and dehydration tend to be other concerns for pregnant women. Now, more than ever, is a critical time to take precautions to prevent overheating and dehydration. These precautions include: wearing loose, breathable clothing, dressing in layers, that you can easily remove, avoiding excessively hot environments (inside & outdoors) and drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise.
Popular Myth - NO AB EXERCISES: Yes, it is true, after the first trimester, you should not do exercises that require you to be flat on your back. However, a strong core, especially during pregnancy, yields several benefits. It reduces back pain & discomfort, strengthens the pelvic floor improves stability, and can even ease pushing, during labor. Fortunately, there are lots of alternative ways to work your abs, that can be done standing, sitting, kneeling, etc.
Before starting any exercise regimen, you should always consult your health care provider…especially if you are, or think you may be pregnant. While most women are approved, some women may have limitations, and some may be prohibited, due to high risk or other conditions/ complications.
If you are not pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or postpartum, but still read this blog - an extra thank you to you, for still supporting! Please feel free to share this blog/info with anyone who might be interested, and/or benefit from reading it - especially mamas!