Updated: Feb 13
Did you know that exercise is critical for a healthy, active pregnancy?
Women who have never exercised before can and should start exercising during their pregnancy!
But moms face quite a few barriers to exercise during pregnancy.
For example, morning sickness and general pregnancy fatigue can present major barriers to maintaining an exercise routine.
Time management for busy moms can present barriers to maintaining a workout schedule.
How and what to do for exercise can be confusing.
And finally, exercise for many women can feel like full on punishment!
Let's get into why it's worth prioritizing in the face of these obstacles, and what types of exercise are best for pregnancy.
Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy
The truth is, there are many benefits to exercise during pregnancy. The health benefits extend beyond maternal health to infant health,
We are even starting to understand that there are epigenetic benefits to exercise during pregnancy, meaning genetics are modified (for the better) for babies to pass on to their offspring for generations to come!
Moms who exercise experience less back pain, less constipation and bloating, decreased risk of preeclampsia, healthier blood pressures, better sleep, and healthier overall weight gain. They are also less likely to develop gestational diabetes.
Babies of exercising mamas are less likely to have congenital abnormalities, spontaneous abortion, healthier birth weights and healthier overall growth and development. (Moyer et al., 2016)
And it all starts at pregnancy.
Types of Exercise During Pregnancy
There are benefits to both cardio and strength training during pregnancy, so a combination of both is ideal.
Pregnant mamas can strive to exercise at least 30 min a day of moderate activity 5 days a week.
Although it is generally safe to continue exercising at a similar level as prior to pregnancy, pregnancy is not necessarily the time to strive for personal bests!
Generally speaking, moms that have exercised before should not exceed 75% of their max capacity during exercise and moms that have just started exercising during pregnancy should not exceed over 50%.
Pregnancy is a time to enjoy movement, not a time to push yourself.
Pregnancy is a tender time, and old body image issues can show up in full force. Exercise is a tool to help us stay healthy, not a punishment or a compulsion.
If you find yourself wanting to push through illness or trying to maintain old routines when your body is telling you it's time to change, take a step back and offer yourself some compassion.
You might be the type of person that should choose to take a nap instead.
You are growing a human. This is a big deal. Your body is going to grow and change with it, and that is a difficult, exhausting, and beautiful thing. Offer yourself compassion and ask for the support you need.
I'm going to take a moment here to rant. Pregnancy is such an important time for humanity. This is literally the period of time in which generations are formed.
Healthy moms who are eating well, exercising well, and have time and flexibility to manage stress and sleep have better mental and physical health outcomes during pregnancy and healthier babies.
As babies grow up to form the next generation of adults, the abilities of their mothers to care for themselves well during pregnancy directly translates to the health of their children, and the overall health and wellbeing of society.
So yes, pregnancy is a BIG deal! And we as a culture need to rally around pregnant moms, offering to support and care for them as much as possible, making sure moms have the resources to care for themselves!
Exercise is an important part of a healthy pregnancy (and a healthy life). Lasting effects of healthy movement patterns developed during pregnancy can pass through generations.
Pregnant mamas are resilient and strong and certainly can lift heavy things. That said, pregnancy is not the time to be pushing yourself for personal bests, punishing yourself for overeating, or for gaining weight.
It is also not a time to compare yourself to your non-pregnant self.
It is a time to offer yourself compassion and love and prioritize whatever movement feels most healthy.
Most moms are safe to exercise during pregnancy, however always check with your doctor prior to starting an exercise routine,
Also, make sure you are working closely with pelvic floor physical therapy to help manage and heal any pelvic pain or pee leaks that might arise while exercising.
Exercise during pregnancy is important, so if these issues are holding you back make sure you appointment with pelvic floor PT today!
Moyer C, Reoyo OR, May L. The Influence of Prenatal Exercise on Offspring Health: A Review. Clin Med Insights Womens Health. 2016 Oct 17;9:37-42. doi: 10.4137/CMWH.S34670. PMID: 27777506; PMCID: PMC5075987.