Pregnancy has many wild physiological rides: from your growing belly, to loosened ligaments, surges in hormones and fluctuating blood pressure. We speak to the experts to discuss the benefits of exercising during pregnancy.
“Pregnancy was once considered a time for rest, when women were advised to take it easy and refrain from participating in physical activity and exercise” says researcher and author of the new exercise in pregnancy guidelines, Melanie Hayman from Sports Medicine Australia.
With all these physiological changes taking place, keeping active benefits both mother and baby, even beyond pregnancy. Here’s why.
A recent study showed that women who keep active during pregnancy reduce gestational weight gain and lower the odds of caesarean section.
Regular physical activity during pregnancy helps to alleviate many problems by improving circulation, which helps prevent constipation, varicose veins, leg cramps and swelling of the ankles. It also prevents lower back pain by strengthening the muscles that support the back, core and pelvis.
It’s not surprising that fit women tend to bounce back a little quicker after giving birth. If you start training your pelvic floor muscles from pregnancy, you’ll be less likely to have post-pregnancy issues like bladder weakness.
REDUCING GESTATIONAL DIABETES
Gestational diabetes (GM) is becoming more common in Australia, affecting thousands of pregnant women. According to Diabetes Australia, between 5% and 10% of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes and this usually occurs around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy. A number of observational studies have demonstrated that women who report regular physical activity both before and during early pregnancy have a lower risk of developing GM.
BODY AFTER BABY
As a new mum, exercise can quickly fall off the to-do list. No judgments here! But keeping active most days of the week – be it walking, swimming or just aiming for 20 squats a day – is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your new baby. It can help you:
Love your body again. There’s no point comparing your pre-and post-baby body or putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. But incorporating exercise into your day-to-day will get you on track to feeling fit and fabulous again.
Get (much needed) shut eye. If you’ve got a new born, you’ve probably given up on trying to get a good night’s sleep. But exercise and sleep go hand in hand. This is because it helps to relieve anxiety and slow your heart rate. In the early sleep-deprived stages of motherhood, anything that promotes sleep is a winner.
Manage stress. You can read every book out there, but nothing can really prepare you for parenthood. However getting your body moving releases endorphins, which are naturally soothing ‘happy’ chemicals to help put you back at ease and has many benefits for mamma’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.
For more information about exercising safely during exercise, visit Sports Medicine Australia and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
DISCLAIMER: Before you start an exercise program during pregnancy, please speak with your doctor or midwife to make sure you do not have any health issues that may prevent you from participating in regular exercise.
IS A FIT PREGNANCY RIGHT FOR YOU?