Move Your Body: 11 Benefits of Exercise in Pregnancy (Plus 5 Proven Motivators)

Between fatigue, nausea, bladder pressure, reduced lung capacity, achy backs, insomnia (need we go on?)...working out may sound like the worst thing ever when you’re preggo. But moving your bump is actually one of the best things you can do to have a healthy pregnancy, an easier labor, and an speedier postpartum it can help alleviate some of the aforementioned annoying symptoms and ailments! So grab that yoga mat, slip on your cross-trainers, and shimmy into that cute maternity bikini, cuz it’s time to get physical, baby!

Why Work Out?

It’s no secret that exercise is a good idea healthwise, whether you’re carting around a cute lil’ fetus or not. But when baby is on board, the benefits of exercise for mama are even greater, including:

  • Reduced risk of pregnancy complications (gestational diabetes, unplanned cesareans, preeclampsia/high blood pressure, etc.)  
  • Reduced risk of labor complications (manage pregnancy weight gain, macrosomic babies, gives you endurance and strength for labor
  • Faster postpartum recovery (increased pregnancy fitness helps physical recovery and postpartum fitness...whether you have belly or vaginal birth)
  • Improvements in mood and mental health (reduces depression, releases endorphins, lowers stress/anxiety)
  • Decreased physical discomfort, especially that lower back and pelvic pain that’s so common later in pregnancy
  • Fight fatigue (exercise boosts energy levels which can help fight fatigue, and improves quality of sleep which helps you feel more rested too)
  • Relieve constipation/bloating/swelling (not the sexiest ailment ever, but constipation is a really common pregnancy side effect, and moderate exercise helps keep ya regular)
  • Strengthen pelvic floor muscles 

And if that’s not enough motivation, your physical activity may also have positive effects on your growing babe, such as:

  • Reduced odds of diabetes (into adulthood)
  • Healthier brains (into adulthood)
  • Fitter hearts 

Of course, pregnancy is not one-size-fits-all, and for some mamas the risks of exercise may outweigh the benefits, which brings us to…

Getting the Go-Ahead to Get Moving

Always check in with your healthcare provider for their OK re: exercising...even if you were already active pre-babe! If you have certain pregnancy complications or are at risk for certain problems, your OB or midwife might tell you to take it easy instead. If this happens, ask them if there are any activities that would be considered safe for you to participate may have to hang up your running shoes temporarily, but maybe it’s a good time to take up yoga or swimming! Speaking of which…

Push It Real Good: What Kind of Workout Can I Do?

Generally speaking, any moderate-intensity exercise is ideal for at least 30 minutes every day. This can be:
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Low impact aerobics (c’mon, someone needs to bring back Jazzercise!)
  • Cycling on a stationary bike
  • Strength training with moderate weight

A good rule of thumb is whether you can carry on a conversation during a workout...if you’re unable to do that, you’re probably overexerting yourself. And of course, listen to your body; dizziness, vaginal bleeding, early contractions, leg swelling, etc. should all be signs to scale back or take it easy. Include a warm-up and cool down with every workout and don’t forget to stretch, hydrate, and nourish!

Mama Pro Tip → when you’re expecting, your body produces a high level of the hormone relaxin, which is a good thing for opening your pelvis and softening the cervix to get baby outta there but can be a challenging thing when you’re trying to exercise since it makes you more prone to pulled muscles and other injury. Certain exercises and stretches can help stabilize you and alleviate relaxin-induced conditions like pubic bone pain.

If you were already physically active before you started growing a tiny person, you might be able to step your workouts up a bit; as always, chat with your doc to get the green light. And you might need to adjust the type of activity you’s usually a good idea to avoid:

  • Anything that has you lying flat on your back after the first trimester
  • scuba diving
  • Contact sports, kickboxing, or anything that poses a high risk of falling or injury
  • Hot yoga / hot Pilates

Sooooooo Tired...How to Stay Motivated

Trust us, we get it...sometimes all you wanna do while you’re participating in the miracle of life is curl up under a blanket in front of Netflix and take a nap (and there’s definitely merit in that)! But it’s important to fit exercise into your day, so consider these five steps your little nudge (the comfy couch nap will still be there, we promise!):

  1. Commit to 5 minutes → Tell yourself you’ll just walk around the block, or do the first few minutes of a workout tape...we bet once you start it will feel good to keep going! And even if you stop after 5 minutes, something is always better than nothing.
  2. Pick something you love → If you hate running, pregnancy is not the time to take it up! Have a dance party in your living room, go for an easy hike, do laps at your local pool...anything that brings you joy and moves your body!
  3. Get a belly buddy → Got a pregnant pal? Rope her into a partner workout...external motivation is a powerful thing, and you both get built-in encouragement and support.
  4. Visualize a more empowered birth and recovery → Birth is work, mama! And like we said before, if you’re more fit, you’re better equipped to power through labor and beyond...what an incentive!
  5. Dress for success → Treat yourself to some cute maternity activewear. Seriously. There’s data to support the idea that having nice workout clothes inspires people to break a sweat (and honestly, do you need an excuse when the outfits are this good?)

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