The rapid physical changes that come with pregnancy can make people tire easily, so many people link pregnancy with rest. While resting is always a good idea whenever your body tells you it needs it, there are many beneficial reasons to exercise during your pregnancy. Namely, working out while pregnant can improve both your health and that of your growing baby.
While you may not be able to do any long-distance running or heavy weightlifting while pregnant, there are several other ways you can get a good workout and reap all the benefits that come with it.
Is It Safe to Work out While Pregnant?
One of the most prevalent concerns people have is the safety aspect of working out while pregnant. The truth is you can exercise throughout your pregnancy as long as you listen to your body and don't overextend yourself. Many studies show that working out during pregnancy is excellent for your health, and it's also an ideal way to alleviate some of the bothersome symptoms of pregnancy, such as lower back pain, constipation and bloating.
However, you might find it best to talk to your doctor before embarking on a new workout routine, especially if you have been mostly sedentary. Your doctor may advise against exercise — or recommend alternative types of exercise for you — if you have preexisting conditions, such as heart disease or cervical problems.
What Are the Top Benefits?
There are so many advantages to working out while pregnant that you'll be excited about starting a new exercise routine after hearing some of them. While the regular benefits of exercise still apply — keeping your heart healthy, managing weight gain and building muscle and bone strength, to name a few — there are a host of other perks to enjoy as well.
- Lower risk of complications: A study revealed that people who exercised during their pregnancy were less likely to have difficulties during childbirth, including unplanned cesarean sections.
- Improved mental health: Depression and anxiety are common during pregnancy, thanks to the hormonal changes the body experiences. Exercise is a well-known natural antidepressant because it helps the body create endorphins, which are chemicals that manage stress and boost the mood. The same logic applies to exercise when pregnant, making exercise a good way to naturally alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms.
- Lower blood pressure: A bit of an increase in blood pressure is normal during pregnancy, but if your blood pressure gets too high, it can become a warning sign of a disorder called preeclampsia. Luckily, you can lower your blood pressure with a little exercise — something as mild as walking around the block can be enough to do the trick.
- Improved sleep: Pregnancy can make it hard to get a good night's sleep, but the physical exertion of exercise helps tire the body out, so you can get a night of better, deeper sleep and wake up rested.
- Lower fatigue: A lack of energy is a normal part of pregnancy, and it can make you feel like you can't do anything active. However, staying inactive for too long can exhaust you even more. Even a little bit of physical activity, like a walk, can help keep you feeling energized.
If those reasons aren't enough to get up and get active, exercising while pregnant also directly affects the fetus' well-being and can be the first step to helping your child live a healthy and active life. Some of the benefits of exercise for the fetus and the baby include the following.
- Improved heart: A high fetal heart rate can be a sign of distress, but a study revealed that exercising while pregnant reduces the fetal heart rate. Researchers even saw the positive impact of exercise in the baby's heart rate after birth.
- Lower risk of diabetes: A study found that exercising while pregnant helps improve the fetus' insulin sensitivity in utero and the baby's after birth. Insulin sensitivity is a heritable trait that can reduce a child's chances of developing conditions like diabetes.
- Improved brain function: Aside from a stronger heart, working out while pregnant also helps reduce the chances of neurodegeneration, which are the changes in the brain that can lead to specific types of dementia, including Alzheimer's.
What Exercises Are Best?
The best exercises will inevitably vary from person to person, depending on how far along in their pregnancy they are and how active they were before pregnancy.
Those who were active before pregnancy and have received the all-clear from their doctor should try to do about 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days. That means you should be winded enough to still talk without struggling, but be too out of breath to sing. If you were inactive before your pregnancy, once you get approval from your doctor, you should start with 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise most days of the week and work your way up to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.
The best types of exercise don't put pressure on your abdomen, do not have a higher risk of physical contact — like martial arts or team sports, like hockey — or require you to lie on your back for extended periods.
Some of the best and easiest exercises to do while pregnant include the following.
- Walking: Whether on a treadmill at the gym or around the block with friends, walking is a great way to exercise without feeling like you're doing a demanding workout.
- Swimming: You can join swimming classes specifically for pregnant people, or opt for gentle aqua fitness classes, which encourage your body to work against the pressure of water.
- Cycling: Another great way to get a workout without feeling like you're exercising, riding your bike around the block — or opting for a stationary bike in an air-conditioned gym — can be a great low- and moderate-intensity exercise.
- Yoga: Yoga is an ideal way to help alleviate stress, improve your overall flexibility and help heal joint pain. There are several varieties of yoga, so find a gentle yoga class or a yoga class designed for pregnant people for the best results.
Is There a Time in the Pregnancy Term to Stop?
Regardless of whether you're pregnant, you should always listen to your body when it comes to when and if to stop working out. Technically, you can continue to work out throughout your pregnancy as long as there are no complications or pain. But if you're in the middle of exercising and begin to feel any pain or discomfort, that's your body telling you something's not right — and it's always smart to listen to what your body tells you.
If you experience abdominal pain, dizziness or vaginal bleeding during your pregnancy, take a break from working out and get a checkup from your doctor to be on the safe side.
Reap the Benefits of Exercise at the Gateway Region YMCA
Whether you're curious about low impact classes or want a safe place to have a solo workout, Gateway Region YMCA offers a variety of workout programs and group fitness classes for people of all ages and abilities. With something for everyone, a trip to the Y is a great way to stay active as a family and instill a love of physical activity in children and adults.