You have probably heard mommies and mommies-to-be tell you countless stories about postpartum side effects like weight increase, swollen feet, saggy breasts and other changes in body shape. The stories are enough to make you want to hit the gym right away. Well, guess what, you can! You do not want to be the mommy that lets her body go because she is pregnant. Here are some reasons why you should exercise while you are pregnant:
- Increase your energy level
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce pregnancy discomforts (i.e. back, leg and foot pain, abdominal pain, etc.)
- Your body will return to its normal shape quicker after birth
Studies have shown that light exercising during pregnancy is actually beneficial not only to your body, but to your baby as well. A study done by Dr. Linda Syzymanski at Johns Hopkins University, found that the 60 women they studied who did 20 minutes of walking or running three times a week each gave birth to healthy babies. The study concluded that such activity raises the heart rate of the baby at a normal rate and that exercising while pregnant is of no harm to the baby. So, you pretty much get the best of both worlds when you exercise during your pregnancy. Not only do you gain your body shape and health back but you also give your baby a an early healthy start. It is important that you do the right exercises in order to get the best results for your body and your health after you give birth. You can do more than just walking and running too. For the more cautious mommies, try swimming, prenatal yoga, and daily stretching of the chest, back and legs. Swimming is a great alternative to regular strength exercises because it allows you to work out your entire body and the water supports your weight, causing less stress on your muscles. Stretching and prenatal yoga will increase your flexibility and tone your body, causing less discomfort throughout your pregnancy and even while giving birth.
For the more adventurous mommies, weight training, dancing, and even bowling and rock climbing are also great ways to get some exercise during pregnancy. Of course, all of these should be done in moderation and at your own risk. Each of these activities will build your stamina, lower your blood pressure, and tone your muscles. So do not hesitate to get out there enjoy life while you are pregnant. As long as you get the “OK” from your doctor, you will be rock climbing, mountain biking, and dancing your way towards a happier and healthier pregnancy. Remember not to over exert yourself while you are working towards getting your lovely shape back after birth. Light exercise is only beneficial to you and your baby if you do it the right way and in moderation. The keyword here is “light” exercise, as it can be dangerous to do heavy exercising because it leads to over exertion. Over exertion can result in headaches, dizziness, muscle pain, vaginal bleeding, contractions, and reduced fetal movement. If you experience any of these side effects, stop exercising and consult your physician.
Exercise has many benefits for a woman during pregnancy. It helps to regulate her mood, keep the body in shape, improve sleep, and assists in making the delivery easier. Before starting any exercise program it is wise to consult with your physician. Let your doctor know, not only your intention to exercise, but also what type of exercises you plan to do. Because of the elevated changes you will experience as the pregnancy progresses it is important to keep the doctor up-to-date on your fitness plans and goals throughout the pregnancy. What you are able to do in your first trimester will likely be different than what you can do in the third. Throughout the pregnancy it is important to stay safe in order to protect yourself and the baby. Contact sports like basketball, soccer, skiing, combat sports (boxing and martial arts for example) or any other activity that would put the mother at risk for collision should be avoided. Even certain traditionally less ballistic exercises should be avoided as the baby develops. For instance yoga (bow and snake poses) or Pilates poses (the X, or plank positions) that require laying on the belly, especially in the second and third trimester are not only difficult to do at this stage but may harm the baby.
Because both yoga and Pilates can be beneficial during and after pregnancy, it is important to consult a trained fitness professional, in addition to your doctor, when creating and executing your exercise plan. A professional Pilates or yoga instructor will be able to instruct you on ways in which you can modify exercises during pregnancy. Regardless of what exercise plan you choose it is key to make sure you are taking care of yourself during your work out. Hydrate frequently. Drink at least two glasses of water for every hour you work out. Wear comfortable, loose clothing. Begin and end each session with gentle stretches taking care not to overstretch. Early in the pregnancy a hormone called relaxin helps to induce hyper-flexibility in the joints and musculature to allow for the expansion of the uterus and repositioning of the pelvic floor. As a result it is very common for women to strain ligaments and muscle do to this increased flexibility. This can be avoided by recognizing your limits and taking care not to exceed them. Listening to your body will go a long way in the months ahead.
Stay away from extremes. For instance saunas and hot tubs are definite no nos for expectant mothers as it will put her in danger of becoming overheated. The same goes for extreme temperatures and other very hot or humid conditions. There is a possibility that even after all the precautions are made, a woman may still experience discomfort during exercise. Therefore, it is very important that if a woman experiences back, abdominal, or pelvic pain; dizziness or faintness; nausea; blurred vision; palpitations; new contractions; vaginal bleeding; or an unusual lack of fetal movement, she stop exercising immediately. If the symptoms persist, she should consult her doctor right away. Walking, swimming, dancing, low-impact aerobics, kegel exercises, Pilates, yoga and weight training are among the best exercises a woman can do during or after pregnancy. Though she may not workout at her pre-pregnancy level, these exercises will help her maintain a strong body and mind. Post-pregnancy, a program in Pilates that incorporates kegel exercises and strengthening of the abdomen and pelvic floor is excellent for regaining connectedness, awareness, and strength in those key areas most affected by pregnancy. After a successful delivery consider Mom and infant yoga. Typically children may start as early as 6 weeks after delivery. These classes are great in helping the mothers restore their bodies after pregnancy while strengthening the core and glute muscles. They are also helpful in improving posture and flexibility and, importantly, helping mom and baby maintain harmony and wellness as they begin their new adventure together.