Fifteen years ago I signed up for a “pre and post-pregnancy exercise class” for continuing education credits. It was held in a small conference room at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine, California. The first thing that struck me was the modest number of attendees. There were less than twenty people. It was comprised mostly of personal trainers, group instructors and physical therapists. The presenter was a certified Personal Trainer with many years of experience. In addition, she had recently given birth to a baby. How recently? Just six weeks before! To start off the course, she listed many of the benefits to exercise during pregnancy. She continued with contraindications, then showed us a slide show of working out during her entire pregnancy. One photo showed her doing wall squats with a Swiss Ball against her back. The next showed her doing standing biceps curls with stretch cords. Another showed her doing lunges. With each progressive picture her tummy became more and more prominent. She concluded her presentation with a photo of her and her newborn baby. She reiterated the importance of exercise and proper nutrition. For emphasis, she lifted up the front of her shirt to show her 6-pack abs. Unbelievable!
*On a side note, Heather and I are expecting our 3rd child in mid-March. We are so excited! Heather continues to stay active and eat healthy. Now you can see my motivation for writing this article.
Here are 4 Benefits of Exercise pre and post-pregnancy:
1. Increased energy, muscle strength and stamina. Do these sound familiar? During pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, a woman’s body is going through numerous physiological changes. Much of her body’s energy and resources are going towards a growing baby. Exercise can also ease back pain and reduce fatigue. Heather continues to garden, go for walks and work on landscaping projects. She has to take breaks more often and says a daily nap is a good idea too.
2. Quicker recovery after delivery. To help me better understand, my wife has compared labor to one of my 3-hour tennis matches followed by 3 hours of yard work plus an hour of heavy weight lifting. Sounds intense. After the birth of our first child, she said that her muscles (back, legs, neck and arms) were sore for two days. During follow-up visits, her doctor attributed her speedy recovery to staying active and exercising.
3. Healthier baby. Mom’s aerobic exercise can strengthen the fetal cardiac system. According to Dr. Linda E May, a researcher from Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, babies born to exercising mothers had the slowest heart rates and presumably the strongest hearts. Read the entire study.
4. Become more intuitive. Here I go again about body awareness and learning about your body. This holds especially true for expectant mothers whose bodies are changing everyday. Your pregnancy, labor and recovery may not be the same as your mother’s or sister’s. Exercises that worked for them may not for you. Let me give you an example. Some doctors suggest that expectant mothers in the second trimester avoid the recumbent bike. Why? The growing fetus can compress her inferior vena cava (a large blood vessel that returns blood to the moms heart) which can decrease oxygen to both mom and baby. This was particularly true with one client. Just sitting on the recumbent bike was uncomfortable. Instead she was able to do the elliptical machine. Another pregnant client, however, was just fine on the recumbent bike and didn’t seem to have any problems. It’s all about understanding your body and how you feel.
If you’re expecting a baby, CONGRATULATIONS! The exercises you choose to do greatly depends on what you have been doing and also what you like to do. Please remember to consult with your physician before starting any new exercise programs.