Pregnancy is such a special time, as you grow a new life inside your body. Both you and your child are constantly changing during each stage of development. Being pregnant is natural for a woman - it’s one of the most beautiful things that your body is made to do. Yet, when it comes to engaging in physical activity and exercise during pregnancy, many women are unsure what they can or should be doing. Some worry they might harm the baby or injure themselves while exercising. These concerns are only natural. But, thankfully, the human body is designed to move and pregnant bodies are no different.
Prenatal fitness specialists can offer fun, safe and effective exercise routines - tailored to meet your specific needs. These professionals will modify exercises for you, throughout each trimester, as baby grows and shifts in your body.
In uncomplicated pregnancies, women are encouraged to participate in physical activity – even if they don’t have a previous fitness routine. Regardless of your fitness level before becoming pregnant, there is never a better time for you to commit to your own health.
The benefits of staying physically active throughout pregnancy – for you and your baby – are incredible.
My top 5 reasons for staying active while pregnant
- Improved mental and emotional preparation for giving birth
Increased psychological and emotional health during pregnancy and into the postpartum period are huge benefits of staying active throughout your pregnancy.
Thinking of labour and birth often brings on feelings of fear and doubt for many women. Why? Perhaps they doubt in their body’s ability or are scared of things they’ve heard, read, or previously experienced.
Imagine you registered for a marathon nine months from today. What if you never laced up your running shoes and went for a run in those nine months leading up to the race. How prepared would you feel? Of course you would have feelings of self-doubt and fear. You wouldn’t feel ready. Labour is one of the most emotionally demanding days of your life!
Although there are certain elements of childbirth that are beyond your control, there is no doubt that exercise, breathing, and visualization techniques develop confidence in your body’s ability, which can decrease or eliminate fear and doubt.
- Better physical preparation for and recovery from delivery
Learning how to properly engage through the core and pelvic floor are some of the most important exercises you can focus on during pregnancy. These muscles help you in the pushing stages of labour. Full-body toning routines throughout your pregnancy will assist you in achieving a deeper mind-body connection. This gives you the ability to move intentionally through labour and to use the positions that work best for you. Also, challenging your cardiovascular system during your pregnancy by safely increasing your heart rate during a workout, will enhance your physical stamina. Whether you have a vaginal, assisted (forceps or vacuum) or a caesarean birth, having a fit pregnant body with a well-trained core will help you have a more comfortable and quicker postpartum recovery.
No matter your vision for your child’s birth, having a strong body and mind will benefit your stamina, strength, mindset, and self-confidence.
- Enhanced health for you during pregnancy
Physical activity can prevent and relieve aches and pains during your pregnancy, including low back pain, which is the most common physical complaint during pregnancy. A regular fitness routine improves your circulation, posture, and balance, which in turn prevents and alleviates restless legs, swelling, fluid retention, leg cramps, and varicose vein symptoms. Daily exertion on cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems promotes deeper sleep and will help you be more rested. Physical activity also decreases the risk for complications associated with pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and excess gestational weight gain. As I mentioned in #2, challenging your body through safe and effective physical activity also prepares you for labour and childbirth.
- Healthy habits during pregnancy carry into motherhood and promote healthy families
Being active and making the commitment to yourself is very important for psychological and physical health, especially in the postpartum period. Studies also show that active mothers give birth to babies of healthier weight and body composition.
Developing and nurturing active habits during pregnancy will encourage you to move, when it is safe, after your baby is born. Your postpartum recovery will be quicker and you will enjoy the benefits of postpartum exercise sooner!
Also, if you’re fit during pregnancy, you’re more likely to become a fit mother, an active role model and inspiration to your baby, family and everyone around you!
- Because your healthcare provider says so
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada and the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology published guidelines for exercise during pregnancy and postpartum. In uncomplicated pregnancies, healthcare providers encourage safe and effective fitness routines. As mentioned earlier, a fitness professional who specializes in pregnancy is able to provide you with exercises that will provide you with all the benefits listed above.
Prenatal Fitness Recommendations
- cardiovascular exercise 3-4 days/week (15-30 minutes per session)
- muscular endurance exercise 2-3 days/week (2-3 sets of 10-15 reps for 5-10 exercises)
- flexibility and pelvic floor exercise most days of the week
Keep in mind that the recommendations listed above are guidelines. If that seems like too much at first, begin with once per week, and you will enjoy the benefits immediately! Then, as you feel more comfortable and make the time, you can increase your physical activity.
Consult your physician
Talk to your healthcare provider about introducing a fitness routine, first. If they advise you against physical activity during your pregnancy, please follow this recommendation.
For more information on prenatal and postpartum fitness classes, visit www.fityourlifefitness.ca
About the author
Kellie is a Registered Nurse, in Labour and Delivery, a Certified Exercise Physiologist, a Pre- and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, and a new mom. She has worked in the fitness industry since 2006, training women in all stages of life. In 2015, Kellie started Fit Your Life, which offers prenatal and postpartum fitness classes tailored to helping women during this special time in their lives.
Kellie, her husband, and their young daughter enjoy being active as a family - running, hiking, working out, practicing yoga, skiing, and biking. Kellie’s passion for prenatal exercise increased during her own pregnancy, as she enjoyed being physically active right up until the day her baby was born. Her recovery from caesarean birth was comfortable, thanks to her prenatal workouts, and she was back into her fitness routine quickly! Kellie strives to inspire others to make their health a priority and enjoy the journey towards the happiest and healthiest version of themselves. Visit Kellie at www.fityourlifefitness.ca and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fityourlifefitness and let her help you Fit Your Life!