Friday, January 22, 2016

Exercise During Pregnancy

Although you may not feel like running a marathon, most women benefit greatly from exercising throughout their pregnancies.  During that time, you will need to discuss your exercise plans with your healthcare provider to make sure it fits with your health status and with your pregnancy.  Your level of recommended exercise will depend somewhat on your level of fitness prior to pregnancy.


Benefits!

It's pretty common knowledge that exercise is good for you, and it is good for your baby too.  As long as complications do not limit your ability to exercise, please do!

*It can help you feel better when your body is acting all weird.  It can boost your energy level and increase your sense of control over your out-of-control body.  Just the endorphins (naturally occurring chemicals in the brain) can make you feel like a new woman.  But that's not all!

-Exercise can relieve backaches and improve your posture by strengthening and toning muscles in your back, butt, and thighs.

-Exercise can reduce constipation by accelerating movement in your intestine.

-Exercise can prevent wear and tear on your joints (which become loosened during pregnancy due to normal hormonal changes) by activating the lubricating fluid in your joints.

-Exercise can also help you sleep better because you are able to release the stress and anxiety that could make you restless at night.

*It can help you look better too!  Exercise increases the blood flow to your skin, which gives you a beautiful glow.

*It can help your body prepare for birth.  Strong muscles and a strong heart can greatly ease labor and delivery and lower risks.  The health of your lungs and practice controlling your breathing can help you manage pain.  And in the event of a long labor, the endurance from exercise can be a great help as well.

*It can help you regain your pre-pregnancy body more quickly.  If you are regularly exercising throughout your pregnancy, you will gain less fat weight.  But do not expect or try to lose weight by exercising while you are pregnant.  For most women, the goal should be to maintain their fitness level throughout their pregnancy.

* Studies have shown that by 5 years of age, the children of women who exercised during pregnancy remain leaner and continue to have slightly better neurodevelopment than children of non-exercisers (Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland).  They also found that sedentary women who began moderate weight-bearing exercise early in pregnancy had babies significantly bigger than those who didn't exercise.

What's a Safe Exercise Plan During Pregnancy?

It depends on when you start exercising and whether your pregnancy is complicated.  If you exercised prior to becoming pregnant, go ahead and keep doing what you were doing before, with modifications if you need them.

If you were not fit before pregnancy, don't be discouraged!  You can do it!  Begin slowly and build gradually as you become stronger.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes (that's 2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week for healthy women who are not already highly active or doing vigorous-intensity activity.  If you are healthy, the risks of moderate-intensity activity during pregnancy are very low, and do not increase risk of low birth weight, preterm delivery, or early pregnancy loss.

But it is good to remember that before you continue your old routine or begin something new, you should talk to your healthcare provider about exercising while you're pregnant.  Discuss concerns you may have and take some recommendations from them.

You may need to limit your exercise if you have/had:
-pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
-early contractions/preterm labor
-vaginal bleeding


Getting Started

If you are not sure where to start in an exercise routine, start with the above prenatal exercise suggestions.  These strengthen important muscles and are also tailored specifically for pregnancy.

1.  Start gradually.  Even 5 minutes a day is a good start if you have been inactive.  Add 5 minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes.

2.  Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothing and wear a supportive bra.

3.  Drink plenty of water to avoid overheating (temperature above 102.6 degrees F could cause problems for the baby) and dehydration.

4.  Skip your exercises if you are sick.

5.  On hot, humid days, opt for a walk in an air-conditioned mall.

6.  Above all, listen to your body!!!

Next time, I am going to talk more specifically about different exercises to try and ones to avoid.  Let me know in the comments if there is something I am missing or something you are interested in hearing about in the future.  I'd love to get your feedback!  Thanks for reading!

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