Exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing, but pregnancy fitness--getting into or staying physically fit throughout your pregnancy -offers many benefits. Unless you have a preexisting medical condition or complications with your pregnancy, most doctors recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise as part of your daily routine. Moderate exercise can mean almost any kind of low-impact aerobic activity, such as walking, jogging on an elliptical, swimming, or riding an indoor bike.
You should stay away from contact sports, such as volleyball, while pregnant, or any sport in which falling is a major hazard, such as horseback riding. The importance of exercise during pregnancy cannot be overstated, as it offers several physical and emotional benefits to you and to your baby.
Eases Pregnancy Discomforts
Exercise can ease several of the common discomforts of pregnancy. Prenatal yoga can improve your posture and balance as your center of gravity changes, and soothe back aches. Gentle cardio exercises improve your circulation. Almost any discomfort, from swelling to hemorrhoids, can be helped by regular moderate physical activity.
Prepares You for Labor
Keeping physically fit can prepare you for labor. After all, the better shape you are in physically, the more stamina you have. Increased stamina means you can handle the rigors of labor; physical fitness keeps your cardiovascular system in shape, keeping your blood pressure in check. Better muscle tone may also mean shorter labor duration--which is great for both you and your baby.
Gives an Energy Boost
The endorphin rush you experience from even just half an hour of moderate exercise can lift your spirits and reduce stress. Though it seems paradoxical, exercise can actually help conquer fatigue and boost your energy.
Improves Sleep Quality
If you are experiencing insomnia, gentle exercise can actually improve the quality of your sleep. It burns off extra energy and helps you release stress, which in turn, helps you sleep better at night.
Helps with Weight Control
If you are concerned with your weight, regular exercise will help you to keep your weight in check--gaining the recommended amount, but no more. It helps your self-esteem too--after a good workout and a happy weigh-in, you may feel like a hot mama indeed!
Helps You Regain Your Body
If you are worried about getting your body back after pregnancy, establishing a regular exercise routine can only help you post-partum. If your routine becomes habit, it will be that much easier to slip back into your old routine after you give birth. And if you stay in shape throughout your pregnancy, you'll have less weight to lose once you have your baby.
It's Good for Baby, Too
The old adage is true, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy." So anything that benefits you during pregnancy, such as stress relief, an endorphin rush or plenty of good sleep, is good for the baby too. Plus, studies show that exercise increases blood flow to your baby, and increased blood flow means lots of vitamins and nutrients for her. A win-win!
Take the time now to establish a moderate exercise routine, and you will reap the benefits for both you and your baby. You will be glad you did!
Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.