Women's Fitness

Can you exercise when you are pregnant?

It wasn’t long ago that doctors still warned pregnant women against exercising during pregnancy. Fortunately, the myth that pregnant women should spend nine months on their couch is now thoroughly debunked, and most all physicians should be encouraging moms-to-be to stay active. It should come as no surprise to find out that exercising during pregnancy is helpful both for you and your baby. After all, exercise is an essential element of an amazing physical and mental health program. After studying the research, I have more great benefits to share about maternal exercise than you have time to read. So I will get right to it. Some of the most mind blowing research comes from Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. They have proven that maternal exercise during pregnancy may have a beneficial effect on fetal cardiac programming by reducing fetal heart rate and increasing heart rate variability. When they looked at the fetuses that had been exposed to maternal exercise they came to the conclusion that hear rates among women who exercised during pregnancy had fetuses with significantly lower heart rates than those mothers who were not exposed to exercise. Researchers concluded that exercising during pregnancy can benefit a mother’s own heart and her developing baby’s heart as well.

Along with a stronger heart for you and your baby, what other types of benefits can you expect by staying discipline to a exercise regimen? * An easier labor and faster recovery from birth * A lower risk of gestational diabetes * Fewer pregnancy symptoms like backache, leg cramps and constipation * A leaner baby * A lower risk of premature birth * An improved mood * A lower risk of gallstones * Relieve your anxiety

One way to look at exercise during pregnancy is that you are conditioning your body for labor and childbirth. As with most physically demanding things in life, if your body is in shape, you and your baby will have a much easier time of it.

Previous studies have show that women who exercise throughout their pregnancies have larger placentas than their more sedentary peers. The volume of your placenta is a general marker of its ability to transport oxygen and nutrients to your fetus, so it stands to reason that having a large, healthy placenta will lead to a healthier baby. It has also been noted that women who exercised during pregnancy gave birth to infants who were lighter and had less body fat than women who slowed down. None of the babies born to women who exercised had babies that were considered low birth weight. Low birth weight is associated with developmental problems in childhood and may be linked to heart disease and other health problems later in life. It is pretty safe to say that avoiding physical movement for fear of causing harm is unreasonable and not based on reality, unless you have some form of medical condition that is putting your pregnancy at risk.

Another pregnancy myth that has long since been debunked is the idea that you need to eat for two. If you’re starting out at a healthy weight, you only need to eat an extra 150-200 high-quality calories a day for the first few months, and then increase that to about 300 calories a day as the pregnancy progresses. This amounts to 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. Some women may start out overweight or obese. In this case you only need to gain 15-25 pounds. This is also where exercising can help you maintain a healthy weight.

When you are pregnant you’re carrying around extra weight and your weight distribution is altered. Therefore, your muscles must work harder to accomplish your normal gait pattern when you walk. Exercising during your pregnancy will help keep your muscles conditioned to handle the increasing weight, and can be very beneficial for both preventive and rehabilitative management.

Pregnancy is not the time to set any records or run any marathons. However, if you’re having a normal, healthy pregnancy you can continue to do just about any exercise that you enjoy, as long as you follow the most important principle: listen to your body.

If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Remember, too, that your center of gravity will change during pregnancy, so exercises that require balance will become more difficult. Your body will also produce a hormone called relaxin that’s meant to lubricate your joints to make labor easier. This hormone will increase your flexibility, but can also increase your risk of injury because your joints will be so elastic. So if you feel that you’re stretching abnormally far, back off a bit to avoid an injury. Avoid exercises that could cause trauma to your abdominal area, that require very good balance (biking or skiing), or exercises that require you to lie on your back (not recommended after first trimester).

Aside from those precautions, exercising 30 minutes or more on most days of the week is a great way to have a healthy pregnancy.

References. JF, C. (2002). Continuing regular exercise during pregnancy: Effect of exercise volume on fetoplacental growth. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gyneology, 186(1), 142-147. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?orig_db=PubMed&cmd=Search&term=American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology [Jour] AND 142[page] AND 2002[pdat]