Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
Pregnancy is one big learning curve and when it’s your first baby, sometimes it can feel joyous and infuriating, bittersweet and hell on earth – all at the same time. There is no real set manual on how to deal with your pregnancy, you just have to learn to cope with it in your own way. Where some people try to work and stay on their feet for as long as they can, others prefer to sit back and relax for the duration of the nine months. The choice is completely yours as to how you handle your pregnancy, but it is important that you incorporate gentle exercise into your daily routine because the more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the stronger your body is at dealing with the hormonal and physical changes – and the easier it will be to get back into shape after birth. It has also been proven that staying active helps you cope with labour too. So, what exactly are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy? Here are some positive side effects:
Exercise eases pregnancy pains
As mentioned, exercise strengthens your muscles. The stronger your muscles are the higher your pain threshold becomes. Stretching is also a great way to iron out knots and unwanted aches and pains, especially back pain. Walking improves your blood circulation and, along with compression garments like stockings and pantyhose, also helps to avoid any unwanted varicose veins as well. Swimming is a great form of exercise, especially during pregnancy, as it gently strengthens your stomach muscles, which helps to support the weight of the growing bump.
Exercise gives you an energy boost
Being tired is one of the biggest drawbacks of being pregnant. When you are tired you feel miserable and irritable and nobody wants to feel like that. Fatigue is especially common during the first and third trimesters and one of the first signs of pregnancy too. But, when you strengthen your muscles through exercise, you will feel stronger and, coupled with a healthy diet, you will also get that extra energy boost that combats that drowsy feeling.
Exercise prepares your body for birth
Giving birth requires energy and stamina, two things that increase with regular exercise. And you need plenty of energy and stamina for the marathon of labour and birth too. Keeping a regular exercise routine can also help to shorten the length of labour and increase your chance of a quick birth as well. If you’re not a regular fitness buff, start slow and gently and keep at it. From a daily walk in the park to prenatal yoga, every little bit counts. Don’t forget your kegel exercises too!
Reduces the chances of pregnancy complications
Pre-eclampsia can be critical for both mother and child if not diagnosed early enough. Exercising regularly throughout the pregnancy does help to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia if you are at risk of developing the condition. In some cases, if you are not careful with what you eat and you do not exercise regularly, you are also at risk of getting gestational diabetes as well. Exercise helps you manage your all-important blood sugar levels when combined with a healthy diet.
Gets rid of the blues
Exercising releases endorphins into the body which provides you with “feel-good” chemicals. Prenatal yoga is one of the best forms of exercises that keep your stress levels down during pregnancy because it is so calming and centring – a happy mum leads to a happy baby.
Trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in when you have a burgeoning baby bump protruding from your stomach can prove quite a challenge. Working out helps you to drift off to sleep at night because you’re burning off excess energy, leaving you exhausted enough to sleep almost instantaneously when you hit the hay. If you get into a good habit of practising some easy relaxation techniques before you go to sleep, then you will find that your body will wind down a lot easier and you’ll sleep better at night.
So what kind of exercise should you try during pregnancy?
Not many people think of golf as a form of exercise but can prove very advantageous to pregnant women. For starters, the game is played at a leisurely pace and isn’t too strenuous on the body, so you can’t do too much damage to both yourself and your unborn child.
Secondly, you are getting in that much needed fresh air into the system. The golf course can clear your head and you get to enjoy a lovely green view while exercising too.
Swimming is a great way to keep fit during pregnancy. The water is a place where you can clear your head and have some ‘me’ time while working all of your muscles. Swimming also strengthens the core, which helps to carry the weight of the baby more easily. This favoured water sport can improve your heart and lungs as well for better oxygenation levels, which encourages toxins to leave the system too.
Backstroke is particularly beneficial because it improves your muscular resistance gently and eases the body of unwanted aches and pains that are caused by bad posture during pregnancy – i.e. rounded back and protruding stomach.
Walking is easily accessible and the most popular form of exercise for all kinds of expecting mums. You can mix it up by taking a leisurely stroll down or the road or, if you’re feeling energetic, you can go for a power-walk in the park. Walking also improves oxygenation levels and blood circulation, whilst gently working on your joints, which can sometimes stiffen during pregnancy. Try to avoid difficult terrain and steep slopes because you don’t want to place unnecessary stress on your back. Also, make sure you wear proper shoes to prevent aching feet, backache, and to improve your balance. When buying shoes it is advised to get a pair half a size bigger, as your feet and legs may swell during pregnancy.
Yoga is a great way to stay flexible and to stretch out all those painful joints. However, do remember that you are pregnant and not your usual supple self, so only go for pregnancy-friendly yoga moves that avoid twisting and stretching the abdomen area. Remember to always keep your core tight and pulled in when doing any form of exercise, to protect the baby and reduce the risk of displacing your muscles.
Water aerobics has all the benefits of Yoga but it is less demanding on the body because the buoyancy of the water makes it easier to hold the poses and the weight of the baby. Finding a water aerobics class, especially one specifically tailored to pregnant women, will not only ensure that you’re working your muscles properly and safely, but you will also get to meet other pregnant mums who are in the same position as you.
There are so many benefits to exercising when pregnant, both for you and your child. But always remember to listen to your body and not overdo any kind of exercise, even if you are not pregnant. Consult your doctor before you start any new exercise regime and make sure that you keep your heart rate and body temperature down at all times too.
Time to get moving!
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