Pregnancy is a time of significant change for any woman’s body. There are changes in nearly every part of the body during pregnancy, from hormones to metabolism. There are changes in the musculoskeletal system and cardiovascular system. Your body even changes the way it regulates temperature. All of these changes put a huge demand on the pregnant body.
Exercise is a crucial to meeting the challenges that pregnancy creates.
Here’s a look at the major benefits of exercise during pregnancy.
Cardio exercise during pregnancy improves muscle function and overall endurance. With regular cardio exercise, you can improve the efficiency of your muscles. This improved muscle function and endurance will help carry you through the demands of pregnancy. Additionally, cardio exercise helps to prep your body for labor and delivery.
According to Irion and Irion, the average increase in body weight during pregnancy is 13%. While it’s totally normal and essential to gain weight during pregnancy, going beyond the recommended weight gain has consequences for you and even baby. Women who exercise during pregnancy have been found, on average, to gain 7 pounds less than inactive women and gain less body fat.
Returning to pre-pregnancy weight, strength, and flexibility, is easier if less weight is gained during pregnancy.
Exercise for 20-40 minutes a few days per week during pregnancy, and your body will thank you!
Labor and Delivery
Not only does exercise help your overall well-being during pregnancy, but it can also help during labor and delivery. There is a lower rate of c-sections in pregnant women who exercise. Birth weights are lower (but still in a healthy range) for exercising mamas. Apgar scores of babies are also higher. Higher Apgar scores are a good thing. Lastly, hospital stays tend to be shorter for those who exercise.
Women who exercise during pregnancy continue to reap the benefits well into the postpartum period. Return to exercise is faster. Return to pre-pregnancy weight and body fat takes less time. Urine leakage improves faster.
So now what?
If you’re pregnant and without complications, consider exercise an essential part of your pregnancy. Here are some guidelines to get you started:
- Intensity: be able to carry on a conversation during exercise
- Type of exercise: most anything except contact activities or with high risk of falling
- Frequency of exercise: at least 3 days per week
- How long? 20-60 minutes depending on intensity