During pregnancy exercise can be the last thing women feels like doing. The exercise and medical community now agrees that exercise is important and essential during pregnancy. According to the American Congress of Obstetric and Gynecology (ACOG), all pregnant women barring any specific medical contraindications (see below), should engage in regular, consistent exercise, Committee opinion #650. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity per week during pregnancy. Exercise during pregnancy may have extreme benefits on the woman’s digestive system, benefits preventing certain orthopedic issues, emotional benefits and, of course, the benefits of exercise carry over into actual childbirth and recovery.
During pregnancy women may suffer a number of digestive issues such as constipation, acid reflux and most commonly “morning sickness”. When a pregnant woman engages in physical activity she is improving and increasing her blood and oxygen circulation. This process aids in digestion making the body process food more efficiently. By improving digestion, one reduces the onset of constipation and acid reflux. Morning sickness, or nausea, is caused by the hormone progesterone, which is released during pregnancy. This hormone causes digestion to slow down so food can sit for longer times in the stomach creating the nausea. Again, exercising helps push the food through faster expediting digestion.
Another big reason to exercise during pregnancy is all of the orthopedic benefits. When a pregnant women engages in regular strength training she will have less aches and pains associated with pregnancy such as back pain, sciatica, elbow pain, De Quervains, and Carpal tunnel syndrome. She will be less likely to develop varicose veins or hemorrhoids because of the increase in her circulation. She will have better overall posture and most likely gain less weight during pregnancy,
The emotional benefits of exercise are some that are not often addressed but also, very important. When a pregnant woman exercises she is releasing endorphins that help create a sense of happiness and well -being. She will most likely feel more emotionally balanced and experience less depression as studies have indicated. A women who exercises during pregnancy will sleep better and have more energy while awake which of course is very important to her mental health and mental clarity.
Lastly, the delivery and recovery benefits of exercise during pregnancy are important and should be recognized. A woman who consistently exercises during her pregnancy has a higher chance of an easier delivery. Women who exercise consistently through pregnancy tend to have lower birth-weight babies and also less likely to develop gestational diabetes. In addition to the exercise benefits for delivery, exercise also improves a woman’s recovery time after giving birth. Women have an easier time resuming exercise after childbirth if they exercised throughout their pregnancy.
In conclusion, exercise is beneficial for most pregnant women and can help them avoid many pregnancy -induced injuries. Consistent exercise may also help women with other aspects of their health and more studies are also proving benefits to the unborn baby. As we begin to understand more about exercise during pregnancy, it is important to encourage and support most women during their pregnancies with safe and beneficial options to exercise.
Click here to go to the ACOG website and read the indicates the absolute contraindications for engaging in aerobic exercise during pregnancy.
Danielle Spangler is a pre and postnatal fitness specialist and creator of the “Bionic Mommy Program” an all inclusive small group exercise program specifically designed for new and expectant mothers incorporating functional strength training with corrective exercises to rehabilitate the muscles of the CORE and pelvic floor. You may contact Danielle at http://www.bionicbody.com/mommy or firstname.lastname@example.org.