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Prenatal Fitness

There is so much conflicting information out there related to women and fitness during pregnancy. Is rest really best? How much is TOO much? It's hard to weed through all of the opinions! This blog post is meant to encourage, educate, and inspire women - and weed through some of those misconceptions as it relates to exercise during pregnancy.

Research has shown that a prenatal workout program can:

  • Relieve stress, improve mood, and boost confidence.

  • Improves sleep, particularly early in pregnancy.

  • Improves posture and balance.

  • Reduces many physical complaints like fatigue, achy legs, and lower back pain.

  • Reduces swelling in the extremities.

  • Reduces constipation and incontinence.

  • May reduce the risk of pregnancy induced diabetes.

  • May reduce the risk of preeclampsia.

  • Reduces fear of labor and delivery by improving body awareness and a sense of control.

  • Results in a shorter, and less difficult labor, with fewer interventions.

  • Results in a quicker, easier postpartum recovery.

Not only does mom benefit, but the child as well! When evaluated at ages 1 and 5, children born to pregnant exercisers perform significantly better on mental and physical performance tests, including those measuring intelligence, academic readiness, coordination, manual dexterity, and visual motor skills. (Clapp & Cram 2012). These kids are also born "leaner", and with fewer fat cells at birth, these children are less likely to develop obesity later in life.

Another fun fact is that women who exercise at a moderate-to-somewhat challenging intensity during pregnancy have a larger placenta and, in turn, "a greater profusion of blood flow, so their baby has a safety valve that other babies don't have," says Catherine Cram, MS, a leading expert in prenatal fitness. "these babies have essentially been training with the mom, so they have a greater reserve to deal with those stresses during birth."

Of course, women should ALWAYS consult with their healthcare professional to make sure there aren't any complications that would prevent them from exercising safely. If all is well, and you are cleared to exercise - The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women get about 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity a day for most days of the week (the same recommendation for all healthy adults!).

An important consideration is your hydration and nutrition, as hypoglycemia is of concern if you do not properly fuel yourself during workouts longer than 45 minutes or of high intensity. Be sure to eat and drink enough before and after your workouts. There isn't an upper tolerable limit for prenatal exercise, but generally, if you engaged in high intensity exercise before pregnancy, you can continue with running, jogging, and aerobics during your pregnancy as well. HOWEVER, listening to your body is important and if any adverse reactions occur, stop working out immediately and seek medical advice. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends all exercise should be halted if a pregnant women shows any of these symptoms:

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Regular painful contractions

  • Amniotic fluid leakage

  • Difficult or labored breathing before exertion

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Chest pain

  • Muscle weakness affecting balance

  • Calf pain or swelling

All-in-all, women shouldn't be afraid to continue exercise during pregnancy! Even if you have never exercised with structure before - as long as it is a healthy pregnancy with clearance from your healthcare provider, you could greatly benefit from engaging in a regular workout program. I hope this provided some useful information, and encourages women to exercise with confidence and strength during this vulnerable time in their lives. Stay well my mama friends!


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