Now that you’re eating, sleeping and even breathing for two, donning the spandex and getting sweaty might be the last thing on your mind. But during pregnancy more than ever, exercise is important. After all, you’re working out for two too! While exercise may have once been used to shed pounds pre-pregnancy, now that baby is on the way, you’ll be watching the scale move in the opposite direction. So maintaining a healthy routine of pregnancy workouts will help you bounce back after baby—and get you both in fighting shape for the big birth day!
Thought pregnancy exercises weren’t safe? Not so. “Yes, it is safe to exercise in pregnancy—in fact, a healthy pregnancy includes exercise,” says Dr. Candice Wood, MD, Ob-Gyn at Banner-University Medical Center Phoenix. “But it is important to choose an exercise regimen that is safe for you and baby.”
That means consulting your doctor when starting or changing a pregnancy fitness routine.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
Baby on board or not, your body benefits from exercise in a variety of ways beyond weight control: improved heart health, a mental boost, increased energy, killer confidence, better sleep and the list goes on and on. All of these fitness perks are going to be much needed as you countdown to baby’s birth day, but if they’re still not enough to motivate routine sweat sessions, consider the many ways pregnancy exercises may specifically be able to benefit you and your baby.
- Limits the risk of gestational diabetes: Gestational diabetes is a type of high blood sugar, where your body is unable to make or use all of the insulin needed for pregnancy. It can come with serious health risks, but completing pregnancy workouts of at least 30 minutes, three times a week—especially in the first trimester—can reduce the risks of gestational diabetes, according to a 2017 study published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
- Helps you achieve your labor goals: If a natural birth is what you seek, exercise during pregnancy can reduce the need for cesarean deliveries, as reported by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The same report said pregnancy workouts can also help you bounce back to your pre-baby way of life more quickly than staying sedentary. And since natural birth requires stamina, the better shape you’re in, the easier time you should have bringing baby into the world.
- Keeps baby weight in check: Based on your pre-baby weight, your ob-gyn can help to determine your ideal weight gain while pregnant. While the forecasted scale bump may seem like a free-for-all to eat your heart out, exceeding that weight range can lead to dangerous health problems. Pregnancy workouts help establish a balance between cravings of ice cream and pickles with having a healthy pregnancy.
- Keeps baby’s weight in check too: It’s not only your weight that pregnancy workouts can benefit. Baby’s weight needs to stay in check, too. Often, the goal is heavily focused on making sure baby is not premature or underweight. However, too much weight—called macrosomia—can also lead to risk complications for the child, as well as for you during the delivery. Pregnancy workouts can help you better reach the the average seven-pound weight target for newborns.
- Makes for a better baby: The nature-versus-nurture debate aside, the book Physiology of Prenatal Exercise and Fetal Development cites a study that says when moms made pregnancy workouts a mainstay of prenatal life, their toddlers had better language and motor skill development, and their tweens and teens performed better in sports and academics compared to those not exposed to exercise in utero.
- Increases your comfort level: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report also noted pregnancy workouts can reduce preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy condition that can lead to swelling and fluid retention, in addition to high blood pressure. Far less severe—but still uncomfortable—is pregnancy edema, which is the medical term you can thank for those puffy ankles. By performing pregnancy workouts, even as light as walking, you can increase blood circulation, and thus help flush away fluids.
The Bump members seem to know pregnancy exercises are the way to go. In a 2016 survey of 13,247 qualified respondents, 81 percent of moms-to-be said they exercise during pregnancy, with 58 percent doing it right up to delivery day.
But it’s not surprising to hear that some moms forgo exercise during pregnancy. After all, precious cargo is now in tow. The news and social media make the matter more complicated with conflicting reports and expert opinion about the safety of exercise during pregnancy. Not to mention all those pics or posts of strength training mommies-to-be on social media platforms, complete with harsh comments against pregnancy workouts from internet trolls.
The good news is you can get all the benefits of exercise during pregnancy without harming the wee one—so long as your doc gives the thumbs up, of course. “Patients who practice yoga (pregnancy yoga that is), stretch regularly or swim regularly seem to benefit from these exercises and experience less joint pain and ligament pain,” says Wood. “Elliptical training, stationary bikes and treadmill or outdoor walking are safe exercise regimens and also seem to prevent or lessen joint pain, likely due to the active use of the hip joints in a non-traumatic manner.”
Safe Pregnancy Workouts
Before you’re ready to go full steam ahead with your regular pre-baby routine, remember your new fitness goal is to practice safe pregnancy workouts. Again, get your doctor’s advice on what’s considered safe for your condition and history, and ask specifically about activities you like to do or want to try. Also find out…