Let’s face it, not everyone enjoys exercising, but we all know how important physical activity is for our bodies and mind, especially during pregnancy. It can improve your overall health and help reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. Most exercises are safe for pregnant women to perform, but it is important to practice safety and to advise a doctor first.
WHY IS EXERCISING DURING PREGNANCY IMPORTANT?
Physical activity has been shown to help reduce pregnancy discomfort. You want to strengthen your muscles to help your body cope with the changes that occur during the next 9 months. Exercises such as stretching or yoga can help with easing back pain and other aches and pains associated with carrying a baby. Going on a walk can help improve your circulation which in return, improves the blood flow to your growing baby. Aerobic exercises (such as swimming) can be beneficial to both you and your baby. It will help you by strengthening your heart, resulting in your heart pumping blood more efficiently to the rest of your body and delivering it to your baby via the placenta. Some studies have found that the fitness levels of mothers can have an influence on the length of their labor and the level of exhaustion during labor. Along these lines, women who exercise while they are pregnant tend to have faster recoveries and are able to return to their pre pregnancy weight. You may be tired after a workout, but you will have more energy throughout your day if you exercise regularly.
HOW TO GET MOTIVATED?
While pregnant, it may be hard to get motivated to even get ready to leave the house. Your body is going through so many changes. You are tired, you may be nauseous and you might feel uncomfortable, blame that on the hormone progesterone . There are, however, some ways to get yourself motivated to move more:
1. Find someone, maybe your spouse or partner, to hold you accountable for your workouts, no matter how small the commitment.
2. Set up a plan. It is difficult to go to a gym and not know what you are going to do. If you have a plan in mind of what you need to do you may be more motivated to get it done.
3. Set up a routine. When you get in the rhythm of things and set up a routine, you might be more consistent.
4. Focus on your health and your baby’s health. Is there a better motivating factor than the little one growing in your tummy? Working out makes you healthier which makes your baby healthier.
CHOOSE AN ACTIVITY YOU LIKE
If you’re doing something you don’t like, it’s going to be harder to get yourself motivated. Find something you like.
This exercise is low impact on your body and your joints, which can make exercising more enjoyable while your body is growing.
Yoga can help to strengthen your core and improve your flexibility. It involves gentle movements and can help you focus on breathing, meditation and relaxation. Avoid exaggerated movements and twists, inversions (headstands/shoulder stands), or lying on your back/belly for prolonged time periods when you are in the second half of pregnancy. Studies have suggested that yoga can reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and increase one’s muscular strength, flexibility and endurance.
Planks may not be your favorite exercise, but they can help strengthen your arms, back and your core. They are simple to perform and the best part is you don’t have to go to a gym to do it. You can do a plank in the comfort of your own home.
When lifting weights when you’re expecting you want to be smart. You will want to aim for more reps rather than increasing your weight. While pregnant you may want to use a machine rather than free weights at the gym. Machines may help limit your range of motion, thus reducing the risk of injury. Just be sure that when you are lifting weights you stretch before and after you are done lifting.
It is perfectly normal to feel tired during pregnancy and you may not feel the desire to work out. Women who exercise while they are pregnant tend to have more energy, less back pain, have a quicker recovery after delivery, and return faster to their pre-pregnancy body. You don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars on a fancy gym membership; you can do simple things at home to keep your bodying moving. Something as simple as taking a walk with your partner, your dog, or your friend can be beneficial. Simple exercises such as squats and lunges are simple exercises you can do at home to help improve the strength of your muscles. Just be sure to get clearance from your doctor or midwife before doing more strenuous exercise.
Growing a human can be tiring, but just remember that you are doing this for you AND for your baby! You may not want to exercise while you are pregnant, but you will be happy you did after you deliver. You’ve got this, mom!
Allegra Gast is a registered dietitian and international board certified lactation consultant. She is passionate about empowering moms in their nutrition and breastfeeding journey. She focuses on nutrition through the life cycle, specifically preconception to preschool nutrition, as this is the foundation for one’s health. She is a military spouse, currently stationed in Destin, Florida. Due to the military relocating their family, Allegra offers virtual 1:1 counseling through her private practice – Aloha Nutrition, which she started when stationed in Hawaii. She loves food, babies, traveling, and teaching people how to feel and live better.