I think that we are all aware that staying physically active during pregnancy (or in general) can help with weight gain, so that is not even going to be a topic of discussion today. Instead, we are going to focus on five other benefits of exercise during pregnancy.
First, exercise during pregnancy has been shown to boost mood and lower blood pressure. During pregnancy, women are especially susceptible to depression. Research shows that 1 in 2 woman report increased depression or anxiety during pregnancy. In a 2012 study by Fernando et. Al. they discovered that physical activity during pregnancy decreased depression, improved mood, and diminished anxiety. When looking at blood pressure, which can occasionally go up during pregnancy and be a warning sign for preeclampsia, a 2010 study by Stutzman et. Al. showed that simply walking regularly can keep blood pressure from rising during pregnancy
Second, exercise during pregnancy can improve sleep. According to a 2014 study by Mindell, Cook, and Nikolovski, 3 out of every 4 woman experience sleep problems during pregnancy. Women who consistently exercise during pregnancy report falling asleep faster, better quality of sleep, and wake up feeling more rested. Just make sure that exercise isn’t too close to bed time or you may end up too energized.
Third, exercise during pregnancy can decrease lower extremity swelling. During pregnancy, your body naturally retains more fluid and your growing uterus places extra pressure on the veins in your lower body making it more difficult for blood to return to the heart. It has been shown that regular exercise during pregnancy improves blood flow and, in turn, can help decrease lower extremity swelling.
Fourth, exercise during pregnancy has been shown to lower the risk of complications during pregnancy. In a 2012 study by Price, Amini, and Kappeler, they discovered through a randomized controlled trial that pregnant woman who followed the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines for exercise during pregnancy (45-60min 4x/week) were less likely to develop gestational diabetes and less likely to have an unplanned caesarian section than those who were sedentary.
Fifth, exercise during pregnancy has also shown to speed up post-delivery recovery. In the same 2012 study by Price, Amini, and Kappeler, they compared the exercise group post-delivery with the sedentary group and found that the physically active group was able to resume household chores at a faster rate.
These are just a few of the many benefits of exercise during pregnancy and research continues to show the benefits for both mom and baby. As always, make sure that you talk to your Ob/Gyn or midwife before stating an exercise program during pregnancy.
Did you/are you exercising during your pregnancy??
Fernando et. Al.
Stutzman et. Al.
Mendel, Cook, & Nikolovski
Price, Amini, & Kappeler