The Benefits of Exercising while Pregnant (and some Rules)

We know some of the basic benefits of exercise in general: stronger heart, longer life, and slimmer waists. That’s not even mentioning the strength, flexibility, and balanced gained from a regular and varied exercise routine. (You know, all things that we lose as we age and need to keep up?)

Turns out, regular and vigorous exercise, like running (wink, wink) have additional added benefits that health professionals are just recently discovering. Such as:

  1. It makes you smarter. It’s true! Increase of blood flow to the brain enables sharper thinking.
  2. It increases bone density. A 2009 research study out of the University of Michigan found that high impact exercise like plyometrics and running can actually increase bone density and prevent bone loss. Kind of a big deal for us women.
  3. It prevents aging. Aside from the physical benefits (maintaining muscles mass and stamina) which allow for a more youthful appearance, regular running can slow the aging process and help prevent deaths from cancer or heart disease. Not bad.

These benefits extend to pregnancy as well. Some you may have heard of such as keeping weight gain in check,  easing the aches and pains as you grow bigger, making labor and delivery easier, and reducing the risk for gestational diabetes.

For me personally, running has given me wonderful benefits that I didn’t experience in my first two pregnancies. (When I didn’t run.)

  1. SLEEP! After the first trimester, I have hard time sleeping and I doubt I’m the only one. As our tummies get bigger, the ability to find a comfortable sleeping position gets smaller. Running knocks me out for a decent night’s sleep.
  2. Easing… (ahem) the BMs. I don’t think I need to go too much into detail here. Let’s just say that pesky, pregnancy problem isn’t nipped in the butt (no pun intended) completely, but it is significantly improved.
  3. Better mood and body image. Part of my distaste for being pregnant is my frustration for my body. It’s awkward, slow, heavy, and big. But as I keep running, I retain some of the strength I had pre-pregnancy. That makes me a happier person to be around.
  4. Getting some me time. Ok, this isn’t pregnancy-specific, but it does contribute to #3. With an (almost) 4 year-old, and a 2 year-old, plus teaching part time, and the responsibilities of wife and house and family, getting 20-60 minutes of alone time contributes to my self-worth and my sanity. (And everyone benefits from mom’s sanity!)

Convinced? If not, check out the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website for the low down on all things for exercising while pregnant.

Now that you’re ready to start. I have a couple rules.

  1. Always check with your doctor first. It’s always a good idea to check with your doc before starting any exercise or workout routine, but it’s especially important while preggers. Your doc can give you advice on what’s safe and what’s not while expecting. If you were running before pregnancy, you’re probably in the clear. Otherwise there are a lot a other great options.
  2. The talk test.  The guideline used to be keep your heart rate under 140, but that doesn’t always apply. Instead focus on the signals your body sends you as to what is too much. My advice? If you can’t hold a conversation with a running buddy, you’re pushing it too hard. Pull back.
  3. Join Team Turtle. Speaking of pulling back, now is the time to slow it down. You aren’t striving win any races, here. You goal is to cross the finish line with a healthy, happy pregnancy and baby.
  4. When in doubt, stop. Any time you notice a decrease in fetal movement, having difficulty breathing, chest pain, vaginal bleeding or abnormal discharge, dizziness, or contractions. STOP! Call your doctor to make sure everything’s ok.

For a full list of the benefits, dos, and don’ts, check out the ACOG website or talk to your doctor.


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