Pregnancy is an exciting time. But it can also be a time of anxiety, with so many questions about what you can and can’t do to protect that new life inside of you.
Exercise is one of the largest grey areas. It used to be the case that women were advised to “take it easy” during pregnancy and it was common for exercise to go out of the window.
Even now, women seen exercising in the gym with bump are subjected to looks of concern and the occasional comment – I’ve certainly had a few.
But attitudes are changing with research demonstrating the benefits of exercising while pregnant.
After all, with an ever increasing load growing in your belly, it stands to reason your body is going to be under a new kind of stress pulling your entire body in new directions.
Exercise can help you better deal with those changes and also prepare you for those to come.
Healthy body fat levels
Gestational diabetes affects as many as 9.2% of pregnancies, according to research. The condition can dramatically increase the risk of women developing Type 2 diabetes after their pregnancies.
It can also cause the babies to be born larger with a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes themselves in later life.
Increasing levels of lean, active muscle tissue can reduce chances of developing gestational diabetes by encouraging healthy body fat levels and insulin responses.
Strong muscles contribute to overall physical stability which can take the pressure off your tendons, ligaments and joints – especially important as your body takes on a new, larger shape.
Specific areas to strengthen? A strong back is important to balance the weight of your growing breasts. A strong core is important to carry the increasingly heavy weight of the baby. A strong posterior chain (think lower back, bum and hamstrings) is important to counteract forward pressure on the pelvis.
Not to mention the extra strength you’ll need when the baby actually comes into the world. Carting a buggy around and breastfeeding require strong muscles too.
Good posture is always important, but when you’re pregnant, it becomes even more paramount.
Why? Because it helps prevent uncomfortable issues like lower back pain as the growing baby makes itself at home inside your body..
Research suggested that fetal positioning is also affected by your posture. Better posture is believed to get the baby into the best position for labour – supposedly helping to make the birth less of an ordeal.
So get working on that core strength and alignment!
Strengthening your core
Improving your core strength and that of your pelvic floor muscles can help you carry your baby in a better position (as per above). But good core strength can also help you feel generally stronger and more supported in your daily movements and in the gym.
Being strong in this area can also protect against pelvic floor issues such as incontinence and prolapse – both of which are common effects of pregnancy.
But the way you train your core during this period will be quite different to how you did it before you were pregnant in order to prevent issues like separation of the abdominal muscles (diastasis recti).
Keeping cardio fit
By maintaining your cardiovascular fitness, you ensure oxygen is being efficiently transported around your body – pretty important stuff, right? When pregnant, you’re carrying oxygen via your blood to two sets of organs – yours and your baby’s.
It also generally means better energy levels, better quality sleep and better strength training sessions.
Staying on top of stress
Pregnancy can be a stressful time – trying to get everything done while growing a small human is tough work after all. Add financial worries and all those other concerns to the mix, and you may find yourself reaching for that stress ball.
Nipping this stress in the bud is important. Why? Because excessive stress has been linked to high fetal stress levels and even miscarriage.
Exercise can help tackle those stress levels, and can also help improve sleep quality which, in turn, can help reduce the anxiety.
Every pregnancy, just like every body, is different. So it’s important to get checked out by a doctor before embarking on any pregnancy training program.
Make sure you listen to your changing body – you’ll need to treat it a bit differently during this exciting time. But don’t shy away from exercising – if you’re unsure what to do, then stick to classes or see a personal trainer.
Did you keep exercising during your pregnancy?