There is no doubt that children follow their parents’ lead when it comes to adopting healthy behaviors, but we are now learning that there are benefits of exercising during pregnancy for both you and your baby. A 2019 study out of East Carolina University found that babies born to women who exercised regularly during pregnancy scored higher on neurodevelopmental and gross motor assessments at one month of age. While more research is needed on the relationship between mom and baby’s physical activity habits, exercise has tremendous health benefits for the expectant mom.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG, women who exercise when they are pregnant are more likely to have a vaginal versus Cesarean delivery. Pregnant women who exercise are also less likely to have high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and a lower birth weight baby. Here are a few helpful hints for exercising throughout your pregnancy.
First Trimester Exercise Tips
The first few weeks of pregnancy can be tiring and nauseating thanks to your body’s changing hormone levels, that the thought of working out may be a complete turn-off. However, getting your body moving can help you feel better. Whether you’re an avid exerciser or starting something new, it is important to always check with your doctor about what is safe for you. Low impact activities such as swimming or walking are generally good bets. If you were a runner already, you can probably still run, but again check with your doctor.
Feeling the stress of a new baby already? Look at adding yoga to your day to help lower blood pressure and improve muscle strength and flexibility (a bonus for preparing for labor). During pregnancy, yoga has also been shown to help with sleep, lower stress, decrease back pain, and more. Classes or videos designed for pregnant women will have you avoid certain poses or postures that put pressure on the back or abdomen. Hot yoga classes should also be avoided due to the extra stress put on the body and increased dehydration risk.
Find more tips for exercising in the first trimester.
Second Trimester Exercise Tips
Week 13 is here, and hopefully, you are feeling less nausea and have a bit more energy back. The second trimester is likely the time in your pregnancy when you will be the most active. Pilates and yoga can help with flexibility and stretching, while walking, swimming, or jogging can help with weight management and promoting cardiovascular and respiratory health. The second trimester is also when you will likely start needing to expand your wardrobe to accommodate your changing body. Exercise clothes should be loose-fitting, breathable, and of course – comfortable! If you aren’t comfortable, you won’t want to work out. There are many brands and considerations for choosing maternity fitness gear, and you don’t have to break the bank. Check out clothing swaps, sign up for email discounts, and join mommy-to-be groups for deals.
Balance issues? As you progress through your second trimester, your growing belly will impact your balance and back muscles. Wearing shoes with good grip and arch support will help you stay safely on your feet and be less achy at the end of the day. Minimize your time on concrete or pavement, as softer surfaces have less impact on your body.
Find more tips for exercising in the second trimester.
Third Trimester Exercise Tips
As you enter the homestretch of pregnancy, you may once again lose interest in working out. At this stage, it is most important that you don’t sit too often as this puts extra pressure on your back and limits circulation. Whether at home or work, be sure to get up and move once an hour. This movement not only helps with blood flow and back strain, but it can also help relieve constipation and other aches and pains. Walking at this point, even at a slow pace, can help manage weight and blood pressure. Feel lighter while you work out by engaging in swimming or light water aerobics or continue to focus your mind and control stress through a few minutes of yoga each day. Countdown to delivery by doing squats or Kegel exercises (exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles). To do Kegels, hold and then relax your pelvic muscles (like you are starting and stopping peeing).
Find more tips for exercising in the third trimester.
Safety is the Bottom Line
Regular communication with your health care provider can help you better ensure you are exercising safely throughout your pregnancy. When working out, be on the lookout for signs of overexertion. This can include feeling hot, nauseous, or dehydrated. Any discharge, bloody spotting, or pain should also signal stopping and consulting with your doctor. Keep up your energy for exercising by filling your body with protein-rich small meals and snacks and drinking plenty of water. Find more nutrition for pregnancy information at ChooseMyPlate.Gov.