Regular exercise is good for you. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many long-term chronic conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. To stay healthy, adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.
The same benefits can be accrued in pregnancy. Regular exercise throughout pregnancy can shorten the duration of labor. But be sure to consult your obstetrician-gynecologist or health care provider at your first check-up to ascertain that exercise is safe for you. And ensure to get on an exercise plan that suits you.
Exercise can ease back pain and help prevent pre and postnatal depression
Many pregnant women develop back pains as their bellies grow larger and their muscles and spine strain to carry the extra weight. Among the hormones produced by the body during pregnancy is the hormone relaxin which helps prepare the body for childbirth. One of the effects of relaxin is that it loosens ligaments throughout the body, making pregnant women less stable and more prone to injury, especially in their backs.
Back exercise reduces stiffness by keeping the connective fibers of ligaments and tendons flexible. Exercising the back improves mobility by preventing tears in the connective fibers which in turn prevents injury and back pain.
Physical activity and various forms of exercise has been proven to prevent depression and research is promising that it can also reduce the risk of pre and postnatal depression.
Reduces labor time
Exercise helps prepare your body for labor and childbirth. An active lifestyle during pregnancy can reduce the amount of time spent in labor during childbirth. A study from the Technical University of Spain found that women who exercised had a total labor time that was an average of 57 minutes shorter than women who did not.
While for the first stage of labor — the beginning of labor to full opening of the cervix, it averaged 53 minutes shorter for women in the exercise program.
Boosts mood and energy levels
Pregnancy and childbirth increase demands on the body. Fluctuating hormone levels also reduce energy levels creating pregnancy-induced tiredness. This can leave women more susceptible to depression during pregnancy.
It is important to stay active though, since exercise during pregnancy reduces depression by releasing endorphins (feel good hormones) that help improve mood while reducing stress.
Improves memory and facilitates better sleep
Regular work out can also sharpen your memory and help you sleep better at night, while increasing your alertness during the day. This is important since many pregnant women report having a harder time falling asleep.
Lowers risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and excessive weight gain
Preeclampsia is one of the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality. Some of these hypertensive disorders may result in fetal complications such as growing restriction, preterm birth, placental abruption, and perinatal death. Exercise in pregnancy reduces oxidative stress and may reduce the risk of preeclampsia. Women who exercise are able to better control their weight, have less pain and are at a lower risk of developing complications, with reduced rates of induced labor and caesarean delivery
Constipation in pregnancy may be caused by the rise of progesterone levels. It may get worse as pregnancy progresses and the uterus grows. So what happens is that progesterone causes the muscles in your bowels to relax, allowing food to be held in your digestive tract a bit longer. While the expanding uterus also takes up the space normally occupied by the bowel, cramping its usual activity. Exercise stimulates your bowel movement. An active body keeps things moving.
Benefits of exercise for your baby(ies)
For the baby, the benefits include better cognitive development, improved heart health, and enhanced motor skills. Also, it increases the baby(ies) chance of having a healthy weight at birth — which is linked to a lower risk of obesity in later life. The potential benefits for your baby(ies) are many.
A 2011 study found that the fetuses of pregnant women who worked out at least 30 minutes a day, three days a week, had lower heart rates. The children were later tested after birth and surprisingly, the one-month-old babies still had lower heat rates, as well as better heart rate variability — a sign their nervous systems were doing a good job controlling their hearts.
If you are pregnant, it is important that you get clearance from your health care provider and work on a schedule that works for both you and your baby. Research is clear that the benefits accrued by the mother can be passed to the fetus and have lasting effects. Not to mention the benefits that the mother will enjoy, including snapping back into shape quicker after delivery and overall good health.