When you’re pregnant, exercising might be at the bottom of your list. You may be exhausted and feel more like napping than exercising. But before you hit the couch, consider the many benefits from working out during one of the most exciting times of your life!
Let’s look at all the benefits you get from working out while pregnant:
- Faster recovery after delivery.
- Increased sense of well-being and self-esteem during and after pregnancy.
- Less leg cramps.
- Larger placenta, which provides an increased nutrient base for the baby.
- Decreased risk of excessive weight gain caused by fat storage.
- Stronger lower back, which reduces the risk of lower back pains.
- Boost in energy levels.
- Decreased likelihood of varicose veins.
- Reduced chances of having a Caesarean birth.
- Higher chances of achieving labor either a few days earlier or on time.
- A body prepared for the stresses imposed by labor and delivery.
Even if you weren’t working out before your pregnancy, it’s never too late to start!
Here are a couple of myths… BUSTED!
Myth: If you weren’t exercising before you got pregnant, now is not the time to start.
Reality: Pregnancy is the ideal time to get moving. “Nowhere in the medical literature does it say that moderate exercise such as walking is unsafe, even for previously sedentary women,” says Raul Artal, M.D., chairman of the OB-GYN department at Saint Louis University in Missouri and lead author of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ guidelines on prenatal exercise.
Myth: Resistance (strength) training during pregnancy can cause joint injury.
Reality: It’s true that pregnancy floods your system with relaxin—a hormone that loosens ligaments to prepare your body for delivery—but a 2011 University of Georgia study found that a low-to-moderate-intensity strength program is safe, even for novices. The 12-week study tracked 32 women starting at weeks 21 to 25 of their pregnancies. They worked out twice a week, increasing the amount of weight lifted by an average of 36 percent during the study. Not one of the women was injured. The women’s blood pressure did not rise, either during the workouts or over the course of the study. However, intense weight training can increase blood pressure, so it’s important to keep lifting intensity moderate and stop at the first sign of dizziness.
Now that you know that it’s safe, let’s look closer at workouts and intensity levels for all the stages of your pregnancy.
There are three phases of pregnancy workouts: pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and post-pregnancy. Here are the guidelines for the intensity level for each workout phase:
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)—Work it, Baby, and work it hard!
You’re pregnant: Congratulations! Don’t you dare stop working out, but it’s okay to take the intensity down a bit.
Baby’s here: Rest and relax, enjoy your new little one, and get your body moving again as soon as you feel ready…your baby wants to see the world!
Pre-pregnancy is a great time to really build strength, increase endurance, and even lose some fat if you need to. Pregnancy is a time to make sure you’re moving for you and baby, but take a smart, balanced route. Women who exercised more than 5 times weekly and fewer than 2 times weekly were both at risk for having lower birth weight babies. So stick to 2-5 exercise sessions.
If that left you feeling a little confused about how to exercise, here is a great workout template for you to use:
Total body 30-min workout
Pre-pregnancy and During:
- 10 min warm up
- 15 min of strength training (High intensity for pre-pregnancy, lower during pregnancy)
- 4 min stretch and cool down
- 1 min deep breathing to end your workout and start your energetic day!
- Take 30-minute walks for several weeks until you feel ready to go back to your strength training regimen. Most of all… enjoy that new baby!
If the benefits to you aren’t enough to convince you to exercise, consider what it does for your baby…
Research has also shown benefits for the babies of moderately exercising mothers:
- Infants are less cranky and less likely to have colic.
- Infants have less body fat at birth. Some early research suggests that the benefits of lower body fat may translate into a reduction in the incidence of heart disease and diabetes in adulthood.
- Children have greater neurodevelopment scores in oral language and motor areas when tested at age five.
Did you read that last one? You child has a better chance of being smarter! So if anything, exercise for your baby’s future! Think of it as an investment in scholarship planning.