As a top rated personal trainer for many years, I have always had a pleasure in assisting women train their bodies before, during, and after pregnancy, as it is during these times, we truly learn how amazing and adaptable our bodies are. Now after many years of training pre and post natal women, I get to take another turn myself. I am embracing a new chapter in my life, the “second-time mom-to-be chapter”. Our son is three now and very excited to be a big brother. I am in my second trimester after a very rough first trimester. “Baby QT” as I refer to the baby, just didn’t know the difference between morning, noon, and night as I had “morning sickness” for about sixteen weeks of my pregnancy. Thank goodness it is slowing down now.
I am feeling better and more energized especially since I am able to be more consistent with my exercise and activities. I have a gentle exercise practice that includes, barre classes, walking, yoga, and moderate weight training. From the knowledge and education I have studied over the last 20 years, I have created a list of the top seven reasons why you should workout during your entire pregnancy. Be sure to consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.
1. Boost Your Energy
Pregnancy can sap your energy, but regular bouts of exercise will help you get through your daily tasks or cope with a demanding schedule: Exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system, so you don’t tire as easily. With muscles that are strong and toned, you need less effort to engage in any activity, whether that means grocery shopping or sitting through meetings at the office.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you can safely take part in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise every day, as long as you don’t have a medical condition or complication that your doctor or midwife has told you rules out exercise or minimizes your activity level.
2. Sleep Better
When you’re carrying an extra 15-20 pounds (or more!) in front of you, finding a comfortable sleeping position can be a real challenge. Exercise can aid you to work off any excess energy. This should tire you just enough to lull you into a deeper, more restful slumber.
3. Minimize Pregnancy Discomfort
Regular exercise stretches, lengthens and strengthens your muscles, which helps your body cope better with the aches and pains of pregnancy. Stretching can significantly reduce back pain. Walking improves your overall circulation. Swimming can strengthen your abdominal muscles without creating any impact on the rest of your body. Try a variety of exercises and see which ones make you feel the best. Even yoga and pilates are great alternatives.
4. Preparation for Childbirth
It makes perfect sense: The better shape you’re in, the stronger you’ll be come labor and delivery time. Giving birth is just about like running a marathon — it requires stamina, determination, and focus while a lot of distracting things are happening. Though it has only been researched minimally, training for childbirth through exercise may reduce labor pains and even shorten the time it takes to deliver your baby. Now that is inspiration for me!
5. Reduce Stress and Increase your Spirits
Having a child is certainly a life-changing, miraculous experience that can leave you feeling simultaneously ecstatic, overwhelmed, and anxious. Those are a lot of emotions all at one time. A recent study found that exercise boosts levels of serotonin, a brain chemical linked to mood, putting you in better spirits. The good news is this chemical can be released even if you are not pregnant.
6. Improve your Self-Image
It is amazing how quickly our body can change through the pregnancy process. Watching the scale increase its numbers to ones you have never seen before can be disheartening along with watching your waist and body’s measurement inch their way up the tape measure. Even though it is a healthy part of the baby making process, it can still appear shocking in the beginning. Staying active absolutely helps you feel better about yourself and improves your odds of gaining a healthy amount of weight. I know I have never regretted a walk, workout, or gentle stretch session once it was over.
7. Get your Body Back Faster
This alone is motivation enough for many women to embark on a pregnancy exercise regimen. When you’ve maintained your strength and muscle tone all through your pregnancy, your body will have an easier time bouncing back after you give birth. Your body is smart and by exercising throughout the pregnancy will tend to help you return to you normal before baby body at a much quicker rate than that of a person who did not exercise during pregnancy. This is important because before you know it you will be chasing your little one, and need all the energy you can get!
Just remember pregnancy exercise is not a time to build muscle, work until fatigue, or start and intense program. You may have been a regular at bootcamps or other more hardcore training programs, but now it is even more important to listen to your body and adjust gracefully. Embrace those days that you are feeling full of energy as well as those days that you are not. Knowing the difference and responding accordingly will make your pregnancy months much more pleasurable. During your pregnancy the exercise routine should be one that leaves you feeling energized, refreshed, and ready to finish the day on a high note.