Not so long ago, pregnant women were advised to avoid physical activity or exercise, for fear of harming themselves or their unborn child. As lovely as this may sound to those of you that aren’t really into exercise, it turns out it simply isn’t true.
More recently, studies have suggested that around 35-90 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise 3-4 times per week during pregnancy can be safely performed, in women carrying only one baby and without any complications*.
Exercising at this intensity and frequency has not been shown to have any significant increase in pre-term birth (1).
If you’re not sure exactly how hard you can safely push yourself, or how high your body temperature should get when exercising during pregnancy, you can read more information in this post.
So what brought about this change?
Here are my top 5 reasons to get up off the couch, even if you really don’t feel like it!
1. A reduction in maternal weight gain.
It is recommended that on average, an expectant mother gain between 11 and 16 kg throughout her pregnancy. Keeping active may help keep you in this range.
2. Exercisers have a reduced risk of having a baby weighing over 4kg.
In fact, they’re almost a third less likely to (31%).
This may decrease the incidence of complications like shoulder dystocia (where the shoulders get ‘stuck’ in the birth canal) during delivery, or even childhood obesity (4).
Children born to women who exercise throughout pregnancy are on average, 31g smaller than those of inactive women.
However, there is no difference in the rate of babies born weighing less than 2.5kg (4).
So, in other words, it seems that if your baby is destined to be born ‘small’, then choosing to exercise or not doesn’t make much of a difference, but choosing to exercise means they’re more likely not to be an 11-pound whopper!
3. A reduced risk of developing Gestational Diabetes (GD):
Structured moderate intensity exercise programs have been shown to decrease the risk of developing gestational diabetes by as much as 36%, when the program is maintained throughout the pregnancy (2).
4. A reduced incidence of caesarean birth:
Mothers who maintain an exercise regime during pregnancy are significantly less likely to require a caesarean delivery than those who do not (1).
Of course, this is a statement purely based on statistics- we understand there are a large number of factors that contribute to the decision of a C-Section being performed.
5. A reduced risk of ‘common’ pregnancy complications:
Exercising moderately creates likely reduction in the incidence of pre-eclampsia (3).
There is also some evidence to suggest that water immersion up to your armpits, such as during a water aerobics class, may help mimimise swelling in the legs (3).
So what exactly is ‘moderate’ exercise?
For those of you who use a FitBit or other heart rate monitor, it’s technically defined as 55-70% of your maximum heart rate.
For everyone else, it’s a level of exercise that allows you to maintain an uninterrupted conversation, and you could keep it up for about an hour if you wanted to.
Ideal types of exercise during pregnancy are:
- Stationary cycling
- Water aerobics
- Pregnancy exercise classes
Don’t forget that your body is constantly changing while pregnant, so you may not feel as comfortable doing an exercise as you did previously.
Your Lifespan Osteopath will be able to give you a full assessment, and may help your body adapt to these changes more seamlessly.
If you’re pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, why not call or book online today, so we can help get you moving!
* In multiple pregnancies, or if you have any medical conditions affecting the pregnancy, please seek specific advice from your Obstetric provider.
- 1. Di Mascio, Daniele et al.
Exercise during pregnancy in normal-weight women and risk of preterm birth: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology , Volume 215 , Issue 5 , 561 – 571
- 2. Sanabria-Martínez G, García-Hermoso A, Poyatos-León R, Álvarez-Bueno C, Sánchez-López M, Martínez-Vizcaíno V.
Effectiveness of physical activity interventions on preventing gestational diabetes mellitus and excessive maternal weight gain: a meta-analysis. BJOG 2015;122:1167–1174.
- 3. Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R, et al
Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 1—exercise in women planning pregnancy and those who are pregnant
Br J Sports Med 2016;50:571-589.
- 4. Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R, et al
Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 2—the effect of exercise on the fetus, labour and birth
Br J Sports Med 2016;50:1297-1305.