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Should I exercise when pregnant?

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

TRAINER, CATHY GRANT

exercising when youre pregnant

Pregnant women used to be classified as a specialised population but in my opinion they are super human! Not only do you have to adjust to an ever growing belly, you have to put up with nausea, vomiting, fatigue, poor sleep, swelling body parts, tender or swelling breasts, increased urination, starving, fullness and all this while juggling work, possibly other children or other life commitments. I used to think those things were all manageable, tiredness? "sure we are all tired" etc but my outlook has changed since experiencing it, twice. Wouldn’t change a second of my experiences but my programs and more importantly my approach when working with pregnant women and moms has changed completely. Thinking about whether you should exercise while pregnant here are 10 reasons why:

10 Benefits of Exercising during Pregnancy

1. Maintain a healthy pregnancy weight

Weight gain is inevitable during pregnancy; between baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, swelling etc the weighing scales are going to go up. However, being active can help maintain healthy weight gain without being excessive. Research indicates that those who are active put on less 'unwanted' weight if you exercise compared to if you were sedentary.

2. Lower your risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Many contributing factors can lead to developing gestational diabetes; age, hormonal changes, genetics etc. Research has shown that women who have high blood sugar levels during pregnancy will have a higher chance of developing type II diabetes. Exercise may help reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

3. Assist you during labour

Just like your pregnancy experience will have differed to others, so too will your labour. However being fit and strong during pregnancy will benefit your labour experience. For instance, fitter pregnant ladies have noted faster labour times, better ability to deal with fatigue during labour. What we do know is that if you are fitter you will be better prepared for the physical requirements of going through labour. Giving birth requires strength, stamina, determination, and focus. Exercise, including yoga, and strength training can build up your strength and endurance for this wonderful birthing event.

4. Speed up you postpartum recovery

Staying fit and active during your pregnancy will help you get back into your routine post pregnancy. Those in a routine are more likely to get active postpartum than those not in a routine.

While the recovery period varies from mother to mother based on type of birth, age of mother, injuries sustained the general recovery for most is 6 weeks before taking up any exercise routine. Walking and pelvic floor exercises are encouraged as soon as possible.

4. Help improve your mood

Pregnant or not, we all know that exercising improves our mood. Exercise releases endorphins ( the feel-good hormones) as well as calming chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.

Pregnancy can be a rollercoaster of emotions, some highs and some lows and exercise can help balance your emotions. Exercising during pregnancy may lower the risk of depression and anxiety.

5. Adapt to body changes

Postural changes are common in pregnant women and many complain of neck, shoulder and back pain from weight gain and breast increases. Other injuries that may occur include round ligament pain and sciatica.

Strengthening exercises can aid in reducing pain and/or injuries that may occur if done correctly.

6. Pregnancy workouts will help boost energy levels.

Sounds counter-intuitive right? I’m tired, I need more rest. But exercising is a great way to boost your energy and fitness levels. While growing a baby can leave you anxious and exhausted, exercise can make you fitter, reduce stress levels allowing you to have more energy for day to day tasks.

7. Boost your immune system

Pregnancy impacts lowers your immune system. By participating in regular exercise you can boost your immune system and reduce the risk of illness.

8. Reduce swelling

Exercise can reduce leg swelling. During pregnancy you will likely experience greater swelling as your body retains more fluid. Exercise can reduce swelling by improving blood flow. Make sure you also take in enough water, if you are dehydrated your body will try to retain more water leading to swelling.

9. Less prone to morning sickness

Pregnant women have often reported that exercise can help reduce nausea. Morning sickness will impact women differently; some experience little to none while others experience severe bouts of nausea or vomiting.

10. Improve sleep

Exercise can help you sleep. During pregnancy exercise has been shown to increase quality of sleep compared to sedentary women.

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