As a fitness coach who works primarily with moms, one of the excuses I hear most often is “Well I’m pregnant now, so I’ll let you know after the baby arrives.” Um, no. Not exercising during pregnancy is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make. There are just too many benefits for mom and baby to miss out on. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s harder to workout while pregnant due to fatigue, morning sickness, and everything in between, but it’s not impossible. I also understand that doctors often warn women against starting a new exercise regimen. This advice, however, is often taken the wrong way. No, you don’t want to start training for a marathon when you become pregnant if you’re not someone who was running at all before, but that does not mean that you shouldn’t do other forms of exercise than you are used to or begin something that is appropriate for pregnancy. There is a lot of fear surrounding pregnancy, unfortunately, which is something we need to be careful of as mommas. I always do my research, but I also try not to ever make any decision out of fear.
Pushing through all the excuses and any fear to workout while pregnant is such a good idea. Here are some of my favorite benefits and reasons why:
- You’ll probably gain less weight. Research shows that moms who workout tend to put on about seven pounds less while pregnant than moms who don’t workout, and are more likely to stay in the healthy weight-gain range.
- Labor will likely be shorter. A landmark study found that among well-conditioned women who delivered vaginally, those who had continued training throughout their pregnancy experienced active labor for 4 hours and 24 minutes compared with 6 hours and 22 minutes for those who quit training early on. If you’ve been through labor before, you know that shaving two hours off of that time is no small deal! I would workout continuously throughout pregnancy for this benefit alone!
- You will have more energy. Pregnant moms need serious energy to combat the fatigue, especially if it’s not a first-time pregnancy and there are other kids to chase after all day. Exercise will give you a big boost of energy and endorphins to lift your mood, even if it’s just a short walk!
- It will lessen the severity of morning sickness. Though nausea stops many pregnant moms from exercising, many who do exercise report that they feel less queasy after a workout, or that exercise at least takes their minds off the nausea for a short time. Talk about amazing!
- Labor and delivery will most likely be easier. Strong abs and a fit body will help you immensely during labor. In fact, moms who workout during pregnancy tend to push less than moms who don’t! Say no more, right?! One study done on prenatal water aerobics regulars showed that they were 58 percent less likely to request pain medication during labor than non-exercisers. Even for just a chance of labor being easier, every mom I know would workout, hands down.
- You’re less likely to experience all the aches and pains of pregnancy. About two-thirds of women will experience back pain during pregnancy, but exercises such as yoga, swimming, ab work and pelvic tilts can offer lots of relief, especially in the second half of pregnancy.
- It can lower your risk of digestional diabetes by as much as 27 percent! High blood sugar during pregnancy puts you at extremely high risk for developing type II diabetes for about 10 years after you deliver and raises the odds of preterm delivery or having an overweight baby. If you do develop it—and many fit women do because genetics and age play a significant role—exercise may help prevent or delay your need for insulin or other medications.
- You’re more likely to deliver a healthy, slender baby. Babies born with excess fat are significantly more likely to become overweight kindergarteners, and overweight newborns are actually more likely to develop diabetes later in life. Eek! For the health of your baby, workout!
- You’re more likely to avoid a forceps delivery, C-section or other intervention. Research has found that regular exercisers are 75 percent less likely to need a forceps delivery, 55 percent less likely to have an episiotomy and up to four times less likely to have a Cesarean section.
- Your body will bounce back quicker postpartum. Moms who exercised throughout pregnancy have an easier time losing the weight than moms who don’t, and losing it quicker. If you wait to workout until after you have the baby, it’ll be that much harder.
- You’ll likely experience less leg swelling. Your body retains more fluid during pregnancy and your growing uterus puts pressure on your veins, impairing the return of blood to your heart. Exercise can help to limit swelling by improving blood circulation.
- You may boost your child’s athletic potential. One study found that 20-year-olds who were exposed to exercise in utero performed better at sports than their same-age peers whose mothers did not exercise during pregnancy. For all you dads reading this, I guarantee that’ll give you a good reason to give your wife a kick in the pants! Can you say football scholarship!?
- You’ll fare better after delivery. Compared with new moms who were inactive during pregnancy, those who exercised are more likely to socialize and enjoy hobbies and entertainment post-baby. They just seem to cope better with the demands of new motherhood.
There are several more benefits to prenatal exercise, but I think you get the point. If you’re a pregnant momma, the time to exercise is now, not later. Take it from someone who has a toddler, a business, a husband who works 70 hours a week, church responsibilities, meals to cook and a home to take care of, if I can workout 3-5 times per week throughout my pregnancy, you can too. And I promise, you’ll be so glad you did!
If you’re needing some support, encouragement, recommendations or motivation to stay active during pregnancy, please e-mail me at Kimfitwithfaith@gmail.com and I would be so happy to help! You can do this mommas! Xo.