Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just thinking about starting an exercise regimen, regular physical activity during pregnancy can have many benefits for you and your baby. Here are ten reasons to put on your workout shoes and start moving!
1 Decreased Weight Gain Your doctor will tell you how much weight is healthy to gain during pregnancy, based on your weight before conception. This is important, as excessive weight gain is associated with an increased risk of many pregnancy complications and, regardless of pre-pregnancy weight, also contributes to a higher risk of obesity later in life. Exercise, combined with a healthy diet, can help you avoid tipping the scales on your recommended weight gain.
weights2 Faster Postpartum Weight Loss Who doesn’t want to get back into her skinny jeans after delivery? A regular exercise regimen is a great way to stay healthy while pregnant, and keeping up the routine after your baby is born will help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.
3 Heathier Babies Studies suggest that women who exercise have less risk of having a baby who is too small or too large for gestational age. Babies born at extremes of weight have an increased risk of developing some medical conditions later in life. Exercise is one way to contribute positively to your child’s health from day one.
4 Prevention of Diabetes Physical activity has long been known to improve your body’s ability to process sugar. Pregnancy is no exception. Regular exercise can help prevent the development of gestational diabetes, and assist women who have already been diagnosed with it to manage their blood sugar and, possibly, avoid the need for medications.
5 Less Risk of High Blood Pressure Evidence suggests that those who exercise, especially before and during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, may be less likely to develop gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia.
6 Mood Improvement Pregnancy is associated with significant mood changes for some women. About one in ten new moms will experience postpartum depression. Exercise has long been shown to help prevent and treat depression and improve self-esteem. So make yourself happier by getting to the gym!
7 Better Sleep As pregnancy progresses, a good night’s sleep may be more difficult. Exercise is associated with a better quality of sleep and less fatigue.
8 Less Muscle/Joint Pain About 50 to 90 percent of women will experience low back pain during pregnancy. Exercises such as swimming, water aerobics and yoga have been shown to lead to a decrease in low back pain, but it seems women who do any type of exercise tend to have less musculoskeletal pain than sedentary women.
9 Less Labor Intervention Some studies suggest that women who exercise in pregnancy require fewer medical interventions during labor and are less likely to need assistance with pain management.
10 Stronger Relationships Whether you’re walking with your partner or practicing yoga with your friends, exercise is a fun, healthy way to get closer to those you love. You may also meet others who share your healthy approach to life. Working towards a common goal is universally uniting.
Exercise Dos & Don’ts The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that healthy women aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which can be broken into short, creative sessions. For instance, you could take the stairs at a brisk pace three times a day, which could add up to 15 to 30 minutes a day. Even if this amount seems daunting, remember that any exercise is better than none.
It’s important to choose activities that are not associated with an increased risk of falling or trauma. Sports such as soccer, basketball, skiing or horseback riding are not safe choices as your belly grows. Also, monitor your exertion. A good rule of thumb: You should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising. If you are too out of breath to talk, there may not be enough oxygen making its way to the placenta. You should also wear appropriate clothing so you don’t become too hot or too cold, and make sure that you stay hydrated before, during and after vigorous activity.
It’s essential to take advantage of the benefits exercise offers you and your baby, both now and in the future. But remember: Whether you’re planning to continue your current regimen or start a new one, always discuss your workout plans with your doctor. With pregnancy conditions such as preterm labor, bleeding and a few pre-existing medical problems, the risks of exercise may outweigh the benefi ts. Once you’re in the clear, though, get active!
Lynsey Caldwell Owen, MD, is an ob/gyn at Malcolm Grow Medical Clinic on Andrews Air Force Base and at Southern Maryland Hospital Center.