Prenatal fitness: Four reasons to work out during pregnancy
While the months preceding conception are a great time to start preparing for it, the 40 weeks of gestation equally present us with enough time to adequately prepare for labour, delivery and recovery. What the body goes through in pregnancy is nothing short of a miracle; first after conception, the uterus starts to increase as the foetus grows until what previously was the size of a big orange or grapefruit is now one of the largest organs in the body, big enough to hold a baby, stretching your abdominal muscles remarkably in the process.
Then at the onset of labour, your body does the kind of work that cannot be compared to anything else; the uterus contracts, increasing in strength and frequency to release the baby through the cervix into the birth canal , where series of contractions and relaxations push it safely further down to be expelled through the vagina.
The vaginal delivery process, though different from an abdominal delivery or caesarean section, still presents serious work for the body at childbirth and then the recovery phase afterwards., as the body attempts to bounce back to the original state.
Whoever called this process ‘athletic’ was accurate. It really should be given adequate preparation if the body is going to perform optimally at these events.
Personally, I would say your diet is the most important way to prepare for all three events, and right next to that would be exercising. Active, exercising muscles would fare better at childbirth than muscles that have been dormant or non-exercising.
Even if you didn’t work out prior to conception, exercising in pregnancy will still do your pregnant body a lot good. Here are four ways working out can be beneficial to you –
1. Helps weight management. There is both a physical and mental aspect to this benefit. First, working out helps you burn calories which works great to manage the weight gain in pregnancy.
Also, committing to a consistent workout routine takes a level of discipline, which is the same discipline you need to control your hormones and eat responsibly and for one even while pregnant. You would soon find that any mom who works out consistently in pregnancy also maintains a healthy portion-controlled diet too.
2. Helps prevent bloating. Part of the changes that occur in a pregnant body is water retention, manifesting in swollen extremities like our hands and feet, even our faces, but working out in pregnancy, and generally maintaining an active lifestyle will help water redistribution around the body especially in areas where water tends to be retained. That way, bloating and swelling is controlled. So, don’t just workout once a day; move more and stay active at various intervals of your waking hours.
3. Helps improve your mood. One of the ‘joys’ of pregnancy would be mood swings. One minute you are happy and the next you are in tears, to the absolute surprise of your husband, colleagues, family and friends, no thanks to the raging hormones.
Research however has shown that committing to a workout routine is great at positively improving the mood of a pregnant woman, as exercising releases endorphins which are known as the ‘feel good’ or ‘happy’ hormones, instantly improving your mood.
So next time you feel your emotions taking over, feel free to take a long or even short walk. Research even supports that exercising can help you feel better from pregnancy-induced nausea and morning sickness
4. Helps with better sleep. For women having sleep issues, exercising helps you enjoy sounder, richer sleep. This does not mean you should exercise yourself to exhaustion, but even a moderate fifteen-minute workout session would help improve your quality of your sleep.
While the list above is non-exhaustive and indeed exercising does a world of good to a pregnant body, it is the responsibility of the woman to first of all, seek the permission of her doctor before engaging or continuing in any workout, and even then, modify the workouts to prenatal versions as opposed to high intensity designed for the non-pregnant body.
Working out in pregnancy is not about weight loss, but more about weight management and keeping fit in preparation for the athletic events that are labour, delivery and recovery.
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