If you are like most women, when you first find out you are pregnant you are overwhelmed with a range of emotions. One of the first questions you may have is if it is safe to continue exercise. I am happy to say that for the vast majority of women the answer is an astounding yes! And not only is it safe, but it is also better for you AND for your baby. Here’s some information on how exercise affects your pregnancy.
The Benefits of Exercise
Recent studies have shown that women who exercise during pregnancy for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week at a moderate level:
- Have enhanced placental growth. This enables extra blood flow to the fetus during exercise to prevent a lack of oxygen and nutrients.
- Do not have an increased risk of premature delivery (<37 weeks), but they do on average have their babies earlier at term (about 5-7 days earlier than women who are not active during pregnancy).
- Have less low-birth-weight babies (<5lbs 8oz) but do have lighter babies by about 14oz and less large-for-gestational-age babies. These babies are lighter because they have less fetal fat and their length and head circumferences are the same size as non-exercisers.
- Gain on average 8lbs less (29lbs vs 37lbs) than non-exercisers.
- Decreases physical discomforts of pregnancy and does not increase the risk of exercise-related injuries.
- Are more likely to have easier, shorter, and less complicated labors, with labors being overall shortened by a third.
- Are more likely to return to their pre-pregnancy weight within a year of delivery.
It is always a good idea to discuss your exercise plans with your doctor to make sure you are fit for exercise. Some things to keep in mind during your pregnancy is to
- make sure to stay well hydrated,
- make sure you are eating enough to compensate for your exercise,
- not go longer than 4 hours without eating (to prevent low blood sugar levels), and
- not get overheated.
It is also recommended to have an hour of rest time for every hour you exercise. Good luck! The benefits of exercise are certainly worth it for both of you.