Good reasons to exercise during your pregnancy
Pregnancy and childbirth is probably the most exciting, exhausting and overwhelming experience a woman can go through, hands down. During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through so many physical and physiological changes that it’s no wonder some women like to take the opportunity to put their feet up and enjoy this time in their lives. For some, the changes are so drastic, that they are forced to slow down with associated nausea and sometimes, bed rest. But for the majority of women who experience a straightforward, healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, leading a sedentary lifestyle during your pregnancy could potentially cause you more harm in the long run. Unless you are having a high risk pregnancy or there are contraindications present, research has shown that if for no other reason, pregnancy is a perfect time to start moving!
Exercising during your pregnancy has been proven time and time again to benefit both mother and baby during gestation and postpartum. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and The Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology (CSEP) have both developed guidelines with specific heart rate, cardiovascular and strength training principles to ensure safety of the unborn baby, while still giving exercise benefits to the mother.
On the other hand, Dr. James F. Clapp, an international authority and researcher on the effects of exercise in pregnancy, supports a more liberal approach. His findings conclude that exercise duration and intensity should be more specific to the woman’s physical activity level prior to pregnancy. In other words, you wouldn’t train a beginner and an athlete the same prior to pregnancy, so why would you train them the same once they became pregnant?
Here are just a few benefits of exercising during pregnancy:
• Increases energy
• Decreases back strain
• Helps to avoid varicose veins
• Helps stabilize weight gain
• Prepares body for extra weight load
• Builds endurance and strength required for labour
• Babies in utero tolerate the stresses of labour better
• Babies of exercising mothers have higher apgar tests
• Helps to reduce the chance of postpartum depression
• Helps return of pre-pregnancy weight
It is now considered a risk factor to NOT exercise during pregnancy. Risks include (but are not limited to) heart disease, high blood pressure, toxemia, gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain. Doctors, midwives and other health practitioners are now supporting exercise during pregnancy and actually prescribing it as one of the ways to ensure an overall healthy outcome.
Even if you are on bed rest, there is research that supports light strength training to maintain muscle integrity which is crucial for moms so they have the strength to care for their baby (or babies) once they are born. This, of course, should only be done under the close supervision of your OBGYN and a certified personal trainer who specializes in pre and postnatal exercise.
In view of the advantages, however, it is recommended that you consult your physician and/or OBGYN prior to starting or continuing an exercise program once you find out that you are pregnant. It never hurts to be assured that there are no contraindications present that may hinder you from exercise.
If you are already pregnant and you are still uncertain, be sure of this; walking and swimming are probably the safest forms of
exercise as they are low impact and the incidence of injury is low. But you must be consistent. 30-45 minutes most days of the
week will help to keep you feeling strong and set a good routine for once the baby is born. Because let’s not forget, you’re going to need all that practice for pushing that stroller.
Samantha Montpetit-Huynh is the mother of beautiful girls and the owner and operator of Core Expectations – Toronto’s only full service wellness team that delivers personal training, abdominal rehabilitation, nutrition, massage, chiropractic and doula services to the homes and offices of pregnant women and new moms in the GTA. www.coreexpectations.com