For many women, pregnancy seems like the perfect time to sit back and relax. Of course, you want to enjoy this stage of motherhood and hitting the gym might be the last thing on your mind.
Moreover, the morning sickness, fatigue and backaches due to carrying extra weight may make you feel like sitting around all day in the comfort of your home and basically doing nothing.
But not moving around or exercising a bit can be bad for your health as well as your unborn baby’s. A growing body of research suggests that exercise has big benefits for both of you.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends at least 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise for pregnant women on most or all days of the week.
Caution: If you’re experiencing complications and your doctor has recommended bed rest, then avoid any kind of exercise.
Here are some of the benefits of exercising while you’re pregnant.
1. Prevents Excess Weight Gain
Weight gain during pregnancy is inevitable, but gaining too much weight can be bad for your health as well as that of your unborn baby. Excess weight gain during pregnancy increases the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and the need for a C-section.
But regular exercise can help burn excess calories and keep your weight in check.
A 2010 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reports that a Nutrition and Exercise Lifestyle Intervention Program (NELIP) reduces the risk of excessive pregnancy weight gain with minimal weight retention at two months postpartum in overweight and obese women.
In a 2015 study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers found that diet as well as exercise appears to be important for controlling weight gain in pregnancy and more research is needed to establish safe guidelines.
In addition, exercising during pregnancy reduces the risk of pregnancy complications and lowers the odds of delivery complications.
2. Relieves Constipation
Taking iron supplements as well as the increased level of progesterone in the body during pregnancy can lead to constipation. But women who are active often do not suffer from constipation.
An active body encourages active bowels. Just a brisk 30-minute walk on a daily basis can keep your bowel movements regular.
Also, light exercises can aid digestion and relieve constipation.
In addition to exercise, increase your intake of dietary fiber and fluids.
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
Blood pressure will occasionally rise during pregnancy, but if it’s happening too often or rising too high, it can lead to preeclampsia. Staying active can help reduce your risk of obstetrical complications like high blood pressure.
A 2000 study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine found that 10 weeks of moderate exercise lowered the diastolic blood pressure among pregnant women at risk of hypertensive disorders. The reductions were probably due to the effect of exercise itself, not to weight or overall daily physical activity levels.
A 2010 study published in Biological Research for Nursing suggests that an exercise program could attenuate the increase in blood pressure and the loss of parasympathetic tone associated with pregnancy, especially in overweight women.
A 2012 study published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association, found that regular exercise before and during pregnancy could have beneficial effects for women who develop high blood pressure during gestation.
4. Prevents Gestational Diabetes
Regular exercise right from the initial stage of pregnancy can help prevent gestational diabetes, which is very common in women who are obese.
Exercise helps prevent unhealthy weight gain during pregnancy as well as improves glucose metabolism and reduces insulin resistance.
A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reports that regular moderate-intensity exercise performed over the second and third trimesters of pregnancy can attenuate important gestational diabetes mellitus-related adverse outcomes.
In addition, a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that cycling exercise initiated early in pregnancy and performed for at least 30 minutes, three times per week, is associated with a significant reduction in the frequency of gestational diabetes in overweight or obese pregnant women. However, this effect is highly related to exercising at the beginning of the pregnancy, which decreases the gestational weight gain before the mid-second trimester.
5. Improves Mood
Exercise is just as effective as medication when it comes to improving your mood during pregnancy. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins in your body, which help improve mood while diminishing stress and anxiety.
Plus, it helps you sleep better, which plays an important role in improving your mood and spirit.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness reports that both aqua- and land-based exercise appear to be equally beneficial for pregnant women to engage in to improve mood. Additionally, exercise resulted in enhanced mood in women in their second or third trimesters.
Furthermore, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiotherapy found that a supervised, three-month program of primarily aerobic exercise during pregnancy reduces depressive symptoms.
6. Eases Back and Pelvic Pain
Often as women enter the second and third trimesters, they suffer from lower back pain. This can be due to weight gain, posture changes and tensed muscles.
To ease back or pelvic pain, exercise is the best option. Regular exercise strengthens your muscles, which helps your body cope better with the aches and pains of pregnancy.
A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies reports that promoting good posture and regular exercise can be recommended as a method to relieve back pain in pregnant women.
A 2012 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that exercising during mid-pregnancy can result in lower prevalence of low back pain, pelvic girdle pain and depression in late pregnancy.
Similarly, a 2016 study published in Physiotherapy reports that exercise is the most frequently used and most effective treatment for managing pregnancy-related lower back pain.
7. Fights Fatigue
Exercising daily will keep you feeling energetic and fight fatigue during pregnancy. That’s because exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system, so you don’t easily become too tired.
One cause of pregnancy fatigue is restlessness at night and poor sleep. But exercising on a regular basis can help you sleep more deeply and have more restorative rest.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology suggests that acute, low-to moderate-intensity muscle strengthening exercises during pregnancy is effective for transiently improving feelings of energy and fatigue.
8. Prevents Stretch Marks
Exercising regularly during pregnancy ensures healthy and glowing skin. It helps the skin retain its elasticity by improving your blood circulation.
As exercise induces sweating, it also removes toxins from the body.
Plus, exercise is one of the best ways to prevent gaining weight too quickly, which can make stretch marks worse.
Start exercising early, eat healthy and take good care of your skin to prevent the ugly marks from appearing on your abdomen, buttocks and thighs.
- Walking is a great exercise that can be performed throughout pregnancy.
- Other good choices include swimming, low-impact aerobics and cycling on a stationary bike.
- Avoid any kind of intense exercise, as it can make you more tired.
- Always warm up, stretch and cool down during a workout session.
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, and be careful to avoid getting overheated.
- Start small, stay motivated and just get moving.
- Exercise can be more fun if you do it with your partner or a friend.
- If you’re not sure whether a particular activity is safe during pregnancy, always ask your doctor first.