Pregnancy:Why Should You Exercise in Pregnancy?

Posted on 2013-03-25 10:00:07

Pregnancy has been used as an excuse by some women to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. As long as one has a normal pregnancy, exercise is recommended not only for you but also for your baby. Exercise is defined as any physical activity that is planned, structured and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part or the entire body. Exercise in general can be used to improve health (e.g. reduce body weight to manage diabetes or hypertension), to maintain fitness or as a means of physical rehabilitation (e.g. during the recovery period of illnesses such as stroke) . In pregnancy, exercise is important to maintain health and fitness. Some women use pregnancy as an excuse to adopt a sedentary lifestyle, or think that any exercise is harmful to the baby. On the contrary, moderate, appropriate and consistent exercise is recommended as long as the pregnancy is normal. The benefits of exercise in pregnancy are numerous and include:
  • Exercise reduces fatigue and increases energy of the mother throughout pregnancy.
  • It relieves constipation and bloating by increasing the innate muscular contraction of the intestines, which promotes bowel movement.
  • It reduces back pain by strengthening the muscles of the lower back. This is particularly important as the pregnancy progresses and the abdomen distends, with most of the support coming from the lower back.
  • By strengthening and toning the muscles in the lower back, buttocks and thighs, exercise also improves posture during pregnancy.
  • It reduces the risk of developing diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • It improves muscle tone, strength and endurance, in preparation for labor and delivery.
  • It improves sleep since by releasing excess energy, it tires one out ensuring that sleep is deeper and more restful.
  • It relieves stress and wards off anxiety allowing the mother to remain calm during the pregnancy.
  • It elevates and stabilizes mood, which reduces the infamous mood swings associated with pregnancy. This is because exercise releases endorphins, the chemicals in the body that trigger a positive feeling, often described as joyous or euphoric.
  • Exercise also boosts self-esteem and mother have reported an increase feeling of being in control, which is helpful in dealing with the changes that come with pregnancy.
  • It improves skin appearance by increasing the blood flow to the skin, giving it that beautiful glow.
  • Breathing and relaxation exercises are helpful in controlling pain during labor. These can be incorporated in the antenatal classes during pregnancy.
Though exercise in pregnancy is not aimed at reducing body weight, it helps maintain maintains the weight gain within the recommended range, which makes it easier to shed weight after pregnancy. Exercise especially during the first trimester has been associated with an increase in the number of blood vessels within the placenta. This improves the exchange of nutrients between the mother and the baby as the pregnancy progresses. As much as exercise is beneficial and should continue even during pregnancy, it should remian the same in type or intensity during pregnancy. Exercise should be moderated and carefully selected to ensure that it does not pose undue risk to the mother or the child. Some of the guidelines that should be adhered on exercise during pregnancy include:
  • Inform your doctor or health care provider before embarking on any exercise regimen. This will ensure that you receive advise on any precautions that may be specific to your pregnancy and your general state of health.
  • Include stretching and relaxation exercises at the beginning and end of every exercise session. This reduces the likelihood of muscular strain or injury.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that keeps you cool as you exercise. Avoid tight restrictive clothing which is uncomfortable for you and most likely for baby too.
  • Wear a comfortable and supportive bra which protects your breasts as you exercise.
  • Wear flat, comfortable, appropriate footwear for exercise, which supports both the arches of your feet and your ankles.
  • Stick to low impact aerobic exercises, which are much safer in pregnancy. Avoid high impact exercise which involve a lot of hopping or jumping.
  • Avoid exercising in hot humid weather as this carries the risk of dehydration. For those who live in areas such as the coastal region, it is advisable to exercise in the early morning or early evening, or better still, enjoy a cool, refreshing swim instead!
  • Irrespective of the weather, drink adequate amounts of water to maintain hydration.
  • Avoid exercises that require a lot of balance as the center of balance shifts during pregnancy.
  • Avoid exercises that require holding of your breath for long periods of time.
  • Avoid exercising very close to bedtime. Try to finish exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime to ensure that excess energy is spent before bedtime.
  • Do not forget to eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Be as consistent as possible with scheduling of exercise. Avoid sudden spurts of exercise followed by long periods without exercise.
  • Always remember moderation is crucial when exercising in pregnancy.
  Exercise should continue even after pregnancy. Brisk walks are often useful in easing one back into exercise after deliver, and preparing the body for more strenuous exercise later. Exercise after delivery also helps control weight after pregnancy and provides the much-needed change of scenery and relaxation time during maternity leave! Therefore, for all the expectant mothers, embrace exercise and reap the benefits before, during and after pregnancy.