There are many health risks associated with pregnancy: from preeclampsia to gestational diabetes to incontinence to excessive weight gain. While some of these problems are simply the result of the changes occurring in your body, many are the direct result of unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits before and during pregnancy.
However, according to an article from the Journal of American Medicine Association, physical exercise during pregnancy can have significant physiological benefits. But these benefits aren’t limited to you alone—your baby will benefit as well.
In the past, doctors advised against high-intensity exercise for fear of risking the fetus’ health. Pregnant women were also encouraged to eat more to meet the demands placed on their body by the pregnancy. Unfortunately, this often led to excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, and higher infant birth weight.
However, the new study indicates that “moderate exercise during pregnancy is safe and beneficial for both mother and baby.” Some of the benefits provided by exercise include:
- Lower fetal macrosomia risk
- Reduced risk of pre-eclampsia
- Less chance of gestational diabetes
- Prevention of excessive maternal weight gain, as well as high infant birth weight
- Reduction of lower back pain, urinary incontinence, and pelvic pain
What About The Baby?
What about the baby, you may ask? According to the research, “there is no risk of premature birth, low birth weight or fetal distress; provided that the mother has no medical or obstetric contraindication for physical exercise.”
The study goes on to lay out a simple guideline to follow for exercising during pregnancy: a combination of resistance and aerobic training. Resistance training increases muscle mass, while aerobic training focuses on eliminating body fat. Yoga and pilates are also worth considering, though more for the stress and pain-reducing benefits.
Exercise 20 to 30 minutes, most days of the week. This ensures more than the minimum 150 minutes of exercise per week recommended by the WHO, leading to improved health.
What Exercises To Avoid During Pregnancy
High-intensity exercise (above 90% MaxHR) can increase fetal risk, but moderate-intensity exercise should not produce adverse effects.
Workout no-nos include long-distance running, isometric contraction training, jump training, intense weight training, exercises that involve lying on your back for extended periods, impact exercises, and exercises that carry the risk of falling.
Begin after the first prenatal visit. Exercise should be started between week nine and twelve of pregnancy and can continue as late as week 38 or 39. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll keep both yourself and your baby healthy during your pregnancy.
1. Perales M, Artal R, Lucia A. “Exercise During Pregnancy.” JAMA. 2017;317(11):1113–1114. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.0593.