The benefits of physical activity are countless but today I’m going to touch on why it’s so beneficial during pregnancy. Even if you’re not exercising consistently before getting pregnant, you can still integrate it carefully and reap the benefits. The general recommendation is 30 minutes per day and that can be anything from walking, swimming, weight lifting, yoga or whatever you love doing!
1. Move more, feel better. We all know that pregnancy can take a toll on your energy levels, especially during the first and third trimester. The body is busy making magic and working overtime to create a human so it’s understandable. However, exercise has been shown to help increase stamina and give you more energy. Making time to do some light cardio or stretching when you feel up for it can help combat that fatigue and give you more energy throughout the day.
2. Digestion. With pregnancy comes all sorts of fun symptoms such as constipation and bloating. Exercise gets your blood flowing and can help with these issues. Going for a walk after a meal has been shown to aid with digestion and is a great way to spend quality time with your significant other or catch up on the phone with your mom or a friend! Be sure to stay well hydrated too which will also help with digestion and can help prevent the above mentioned symptoms.
3. Better sleep. Sleeping is so important when it comes to your overall well being. Unfortunately, your sleep can be affected when you have to pee three times per night and you have a growing belly that eventually prevents you from sleeping your stomach and back (it’s ideal to sleep on your left side for best circulation as your pregnancy progresses). The excitement of becoming a parent alone can keep you up at night or if you have other small children they may be disrupting a good nights sleep. Many factors can affect your sleep during pregnancy. However, exercise can help you fall asleep more easily, stay asleep and get better quality of sleep. From one mother to the next, I recommend you try to sneak in some cat naps when you can .. while you still can!!
4.Improved mood. With all the changes happening in your body, your emotions see hormones can become all out of whack. Physical activity releases a happy hormone called endorphins which help improve your mood and reduce pain. Make sure to avoid getting hangry and keep that belly full too! I found this to be especially important during pregnancy to feel my best and to help with nausea.
5. Avoid back pain and improve posture. A very common issue during pregnancy is lower back pain. The extra weight you carry can affect your posture and it’s important to address it before the issue causes long term damage. Stretching tight muscles especially in the hips, glutes, back and hamstrings can help prevent these aches and pains. I loved yoga during pregnancy. Find a prenatal yoga class or let your usual yoga instructor know you are pregnant before starting a class.
6. Prevent gestational diabeties. This is also very common during pregnancy and you will be tested for it sometime between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Regular exercise can help prevent this so all the more reason to get moving!
7. Easier labour and delivery. Exercise will help your body cope with labour can even help you bounce back much more quickly after pregnancy. I like to compare labour to running a marathon. If your physically fit, it will absolutely work in your benefit. Although lifting weights will help build muscle and strength, any physical activity is beneficial. By the last trimester, your exercise intensity will really slow down so a simple walk is more than enough. Working on strengthening your pelvic floor will also help with labour and recovery. I suggest everyone meet with a pelvic floor therapist before and after pregnancy. In some countries, that is actually the standard. Hopefully it will be in Canada one day too!
Always talk to your doctor or midwife about your exercise routine during pregnancy, especially if you’re having high risk pregnancy. As a rule of thumb, you can continue anything that you were doing before pregnancy. It’s not the best time to start something new or pick up a sport you’ve never done before. Although, if you are just starting up, light cardio and stretching is totally safe and good place to begin. If you want to start weight lifting and have never done it before, I suggest working with a trainer who specializes in pre/post natal or try a prenatal yoga class. Otherwise, stick to what your body is used to and avoid exercises that put you at risk for falling or injury. Most importantly listen to your body and do what makes you feel good!