Benefits of Exercise When Pregnant
Exercising is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your growing baby. Regular exercise has many health benefits.
No matter what trimester you are, it’s best off to practice low-impact exercises – anything too intense has a small chance of complications – and in the worst-case scenario, miscarriage.
Some of the main benefits of exercising with bump include:
- Improved mood
- Reduced fatigue
- Less chance of diabetes and hypertension
- Less chance of constipation (and hemorrhoids)
- Reduced bloating
- Better sleep
- Less morning sickness
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- You’ll maintain a healthy weight better
- Reduced aches and swelling
Keeping your body fit and healthy also reduces the risk of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition that can strike in the second half of pregnancy and is characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to either your kidneys or liver.
It can be dangerous for you and your baby – it affects the blood flow to the placenta, often leading to premature births and smaller babies.
The first trimester can go from a super exciting time to a nightmare really fast. When you get the news, you’re ecstatic – but then the symptoms start getting the better of you.
Your baby is growing rapidly during the first trimester, but it’s the safest time to practice higher impact workouts if you’re used to it. Try to remember, your body is constantly changing, so you might not know your limits as much as you think.
Walking, Jogging, and Running
Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or if you’ve never worked out before in your life, you can’t go wrong with a bit of walking.
It’s a great place to start and is usually safe for everybody. It’s a great, low-impact way to keep your heart strong.
If you’re already pretty fit, you may want to try jogging or running – but it’s important to know your limits and not exert yourself.
Walking is something you can do throughout your whole pregnancy – and if you built up the distance earlier on in your pregnancy, it’ll be easier when it comes to the third trimester.
Pilates is not only great for your overall health, but it can be a great way to soothe back pain – which I’m sure after week 8, I’m sure you’ll appreciate it!
Pilates is essentially a series of exercises that build strength and balance. It can be done with no equipment at all – but it’s recommended to use a mat, especially for pregnant women.
Even a small pilates workout once a week should build your strength and help relieve you of aches and pains.
Many community centers offer prenatal pilates sessions – and it’s a great way to meet other moms-to-be!
Swimming is a safe, low-impact way to stay in shape (as ‘in-shape’ as you can be while pregnant) and improve your overall health.
However, it can take some getting used to. If you’re not a big swimmer, you’re best off trying a couple of laps in your local pool and seeing how it feels.
If you get tired, then try walking in the shallow water for a while, or leave – don’t push yourself, as it could be damaging to both you and your bump.
Kegels (Pelvic Floor Exercises)
Your doctor has probably already recommended pelvic floor exercises – and for good reason.
Kegel exercises do wonders in strengthening your abdominal muscles – your uterus, vagina, bowels, and your bladder (all of which are affected during pregnancy!).
Pregnancy puts a strain on your pelvic floor, which can lead to lower bain, pain during intercourse, painful urination, and leakage of urine.
Luckily, pelvic floor exercises are relatively easy and require little-to-no effort.
Next time you relieve your bladder, stop mid-pee and feel which muscles tighten. If you feel them tighten, then you know you’re doing it right.
These can be done anywhere – even at your desk (if you pretend like you’re peeing and then hold it).
- Build up your regime slowly – if you’ve not exercised in a while, don’t jump straight into the deep end (literally)
- You most likely won’t look pregnant yet, so people won’t know to be careful around you – so it’s up to you to stay wary around people when exercising
- Be sure to tell your doctor what exercise you plan on doing, and get advice
The second trimester can certainly be a confusing time – one minute your morning sickness has gone and you’re feeling great, and the next minute, your ankles are swollen and you can’t see your toes anymore.
However, the second trimester is usually the time that you get your mojo back – with a lot of other symptoms easing off.
You may feel the urge to exercise – but again, don’t push yourself. Avoid any strenuous activities that can cause injury to your stomach (gymnastics, contact sports, etc).
Halfway through your pregnancy, your heart is pumping around 30-50% more blood than usual – meaning that even a walk up the stairs could leave you out of breath.
Luckily, there are some exercises that are completely safe and beneficial to you and your baby.
Yoga is a great way of stretching muscles, reducing pregnancy aches and pains, and decreasing blood pressure.
Yoga can also be relaxing for your mind – if done mindfully, it can be a form of meditation, which can help ease any emotional stress and anxiety.
If you’re already experienced with yoga, then continue with your routine, taking care not to push yourself too hard, and taking regular breaks.
It’s best to also avoid any poses that don’t feel right. Positions where you could fall, like the Tree or Warrior, should be avoided.
If done correctly, it can be a peaceful, meditative experience that you’ll come out of feeling healthier and happier.
Hot yoga, on the other hand, should be avoided. It can be dangerous having a high body temperature when pregnant, as it increases the chances of you and your baby suffering from dehydration.
The water is probably the only place you don’t feel like you weigh 500lbs, so you might find yourself drawn to your local swimming pool.
The water is soothing, and is very low-risk, even when pregnant. Be sure to focus on exercises that don’t require twisting your stomach.
Swimming is a great way to strengthen your core, which can make your labor experience easier.
Riding a bicycle requires good balance – but your center of gravity changes throughout pregnancy, so even for the most experienced cyclist, riding a bicycle can be dangerous when in the second trimester.
This is where the exercise bike comes in. Stationary cycling is a safe way to improve muscle strength without putting too much stress on your abdomen.
As long as it’s comfortable and there are no factors, it’s a completely safe and fun way to get your weekly exercise in.
- STAY HYDRATED!!
- Wear loose clothing, or non-stretch material
- Be sure your shoes have a good grip – even a small fall can be dangerous when pregnant
- Be sure you’re eating enough – graze on some healthy snacks after each workout
- Don’t be afraid to take a break! Even if it takes an hour to get 30 mins of exercise done, it’s better than wearing you and your baby out.
- Avoid all contact sports, sports with balls, and anything where you’re at risk of falling over
The third trimester is a pretty difficult time to fit in some exercise – partly because you’re huge, partly because you’re preparing for the new arrival, and partly because you’re exhausted from multiple sleepless nights.
However, there are some great low impact exercises that can still be done at this stage – not just for you, but for your baby too.
The third trimester is when most of your baby’s fat tissues develop, so this is when you’ll see the most results in terms of your baby’s body fat.
As mentioned in the first chapter, walking is safe to do throughout your whole pregnancy (maybe not the last couple of hours of pregnancy, though).
This is the simplest and most accessible form of exercise you can do. As long as you have a comfortable and supportive pair of shoes with a good grip, and you stick to flat paths, you shouldn’t experience any issues.
If your back starts aching more than usual, or if your feet begin to hurt, then either take a break or head home.
Unless your doctor has stated otherwise, you should avoid running. Even professional athletes cut their exercise routines in half when they’re pregnant, so don’t feel disappointed if you’re not reaching your exercise goals.
There are some exercises that can be done in the third trimester that will help your body prepare for the pains that labor can bring.
The squatting position does wonders for preparing your pelvis for childbirth. It expands the size of your pelvis while using gravity to promote the downward movement of your baby.
It also helps to maintain the strength of your hips, glutes, pelvic floor, and your core – all of which will feel the wrath of labor!!!
It’s best to start off on all fours and push yourself back into a squat position. Try holding the position with one arm into the air.
Alternatively, you could start by standing up, and lower yourself into the squat position.
If your baby is overdue, gentle squats have been known to naturally induce labor and can help stimulate dilation.
- Always get advice from your doctor
- Avoid quick changes of direction – loss of stability can be a real issue in the third trimester
- If you experience any abdominal pains while or after exercising, be sure to go straight to your doctor
- As you get closer to your due date, try more relaxing exercises such as yoga and walking.
Exercise while pregnant is generally avoided by many due to the fear of harming the baby, but it’s actually very beneficial to both you and the bump if done carefully.
Healthy mom equals a healthy baby. It isn’t just yours and baby’s overall health that exercise can improve – it can also make your body more equipped to deal with labor, and can reduce the risk of certain complications such as preeclampsia.
However, you must remember to always trust your gut – if a position, exercise, or location doesn’t feel right, then it’s best to avoid it – and always get doctor’s advice!
What do you think of our exercise tips? Would you try any of these?
Let us know in the comments section below, and feel free to share this with your mom-to-be friends!
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