Let’s get to the bottom of this debate!
With the ever-growing reliance on online information, especially surrounding exercise during pregnancy, it can be confusing sorting fact from fiction.
One online expert says no, the other says yes.
It is really hard to distinguish who’s opinion is correct!
Is it just opinion or backed by scientific research?
Good news! The hard work is done. We have combed through a TON of scientific research to bring you the latest findings, recommendations, and benefits to exercising while pregnant.
There is a whole range of important benefits to the mother, here is a list of some of the key benefits.
- improved cardiovascular function (fitness)
- lower risk for gestational diabetes
- improved strength and lean muscle mass
- improved sense of well-being
- reduce symptoms of anxiety depression
- enhanced sleep
- reductions in bone density loss
- decreased physical discomfort
- healthy body image
Weight management is also an important part of exercising through pregnancy. Weight gain during pregnancy is a natural and necessary process. However, excessive gestational weight gain is associated with maternal complications, including cesarean delivery, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, impaired glucose tolerance, and gestational diabetes.
There is also a number of fantastic benefits to the fetus which include; decreased resting heart rate, improvement in the viability of the placenta, increased amniotic fluid levels, and enhanced blood flow which are important for fetal health and development.
It is also important to note, children of women who exercise during pregnancy have lower birth weights, increased gestational ages, potentially improved neurodevelopment (brain), and lower body fat percentages. Children of exercising mothers who were followed up at 5 years of age showed a maintenance of leaner body mass index compared to children with non-exercising mothers.
Here are some final tips for exercising while pregnant from CrossFit Bounce Owner & Physiotherapist, Andrea Hams.
- Hot weather – If exercising in hot weather wear loose fitting clothing that allows the mother to keep cool and comfortable, it is important to not get too hot during exercise. Interestingly, regular exercise in pregnancy makes you more efficient at regulating your body temperature so it will make you more comfortable away from the gym also.
- Hydration – Ensure adequate hydration BEFORE, DURING, AFTER exercising. During pregnancy, mothers have an increased blood volume so hydration is extremely important for both mother and baby.
- Intensity – Exercise intensity should NOT exceed pre-pregnancy level. This is not a time to try and increase fitness or strength, maintenance is the key.
- Modifications – During the three trimesters there needs to be some modifications to movements that are done to keep the mother and baby as safe as possible
- 1st trimester – No Change
- 2nd-3rd trimester – NO lying on back or tummy to exercise, scale weights to ensure safe & comfortable movement. Remember this is very personal and should be adjusted to daily energy levels and balance. NO abdominal exercises.
- 3rd trimester – no over-head movements to decrease risk of rectus diastasis.
- Balance – As the baby grows the mothers center of mass will change and because of this, the risk of falls increases. I would recommend being extra vigilant with exercises that challenge balance. This is not to say you can’t challenge yourself at all but rather be aware of movements like step ups, single leg movements, weight above head.
- Nutrition – Dietary requirements will increase throughout pregnancy. Ensure adequate consumption of the correct types of food to support your energy levels and the babies growth.
As always, you should consult your Doctor before taking part in any physical activity program, especially when pregnant. All women experience pregnancy differently so it’s important to take it as it comes. Remember exercise is a bonus, If you can get some in then you are a Rockstar!
Yours in Fitness.
P.s. For those looking to do some of their own research, here is the journal article the above information has been taken from…it references almost 100 studies on exercise during pregnancy.
Prather, H., DO, Spitznagle, T., DPT, & Hunt, D., MD. (2012). Benefits of exercise during pregnancy. Pm&r, 4(11), 845-850. 10.1016/j.pmrj.2012.07.012