If you’ve been told that exercise is a no-no for pregnant women, you won’t be alone.
The myth that you need to be wrapped up in cotton wool for nine months still pervades to an extent, and it’s time that this stopped!
Individual contraindications and medical advice to the contrary notwithstanding, exercise of some description is a very good idea if you’re expecting.
If you listen to your body and take good advice from qualified and experienced professionals, there are a heap of benefits to training while pregnant.
Women who do weight training all the way through their pregnancies are less likely to experience difficulties in birth… not to mention that the length of time spent in labour is likely to be reduced.
Further to that, there is a whole list of issues commonly experienced along with pregnancy which exercise can help to alleviate.
Do you fancy reducing the risk and impact of these?
Along with the emotional and physical stress and strain of pregnancy, with our hormones going wild we can experience more anxiety than usual. Exercise helps to balance the endocrine system, which controls this part of your functioning.
You’ve probably heard about the gut microbiome and might have also heard that it’s been linked to the management of anxiety. The diet that your personal trainer at Ultimate Performance will create for you will have good gut health and the fostering of a healthy gut microbiome in mind.
I’m not going to say that a trip to the gym will cure your depression. Depression is real and serious and manifests itself in many ways. However, as Susan Calman points out in her book Cheer Up Love, exercise is likely to make instances when depression comes to call less deep, less long and easier to handle.
Exercise is also a way to maintain your sense of self and doing something just for yourself. This is important not only during pregnancy but also after you’ve had your baby or any time, for that matter, which can help in general to handle some of the feelings and experiences that depression can trigger within you.
3. Back Pain
Many of us have terrible posture and pregnancy doesn’t help matters. The extra weight pulling at the front of your body as your pregnancy develops encourages kyphosis (abnormal rounding of upper back) and lordosis (excessive inner curvature of spine) in the spine and this pressure continues later on as you cradle your baby, pick it up, put it down and carry it about.
Your personal trainer will assess your mobility and spot functional errors which she or he can help you to correct with intelligent programming, whether you’re pregnant or not.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or if you’ve had a baby, your trainer will bear this in mind and take extra steps to strengthen your body in a way which will help to protect you from back pain.
It’s not just the muscles on the outside or the ones you’re aware of using that need to be kept in good working order. As well as your pelvic floor exercises (which you should be doing anyway by the way, if you’re a woman; and which you can do anywhere, anytime …I’ve started doing mine right now as I type, because I just remembered to do them)… where were we?
Oh yes, pelvic floor exercises. These muscles will be getting stretched and undergo a bit of a beating in labour. The fitter your muscles are before labour, the better their recovery is likely to be and the less likely you’ll be peeing when you dance; so get squeezing.
When you’re pregnant, changes in your hormones can encourage the smooth muscle that moves your digestive system to relax. When this smooth muscle stops pulsing away with it’s usual enthusiasm, this slows the movement of food through your body and can cause constipation. Further to this, a sedentary lifestyle is linked in general to constipation. So, although we can’t do much about the necessary hormonal changes of pregnancy, you can help to balance what does happen by encouraging a well-regulated endocrine system as far as is within your power, by eating well and keeping active.
Now, obviously, your tummy will swell; it will have a baby growing inside it! And the amount by which is swells will be whatever God, the universe or your biology chooses it to be. But, as for the rest of you, the likelihood of swelling from water retention can be reduced through diet and activity.
Inflammation of this kind is monitored at Ultimate Performance as a matter of course with all personal training clients. Our trainers know how to analyse the location of inflammation to indicate its cause and point to ways to address this.
7. Varicose veins
Being less sedentary and the general improvement if your circulatory system that results from exercise make it less likely that you’ll develop varicose veins. I can’t promise you that you won’t get any, but you’ll be less likely to get them if you go for a stroll, do some pre-natal yoga or get down the gym and pump some iron.
Trouble sleeping is common as your pregnancy develops. It can be just so hard to find a comfortable position to lie in with your big baby bump. Your back might ache, you might be experiencing anxiety. You might find that your temperature seems to fluctuate, leading to discomfort. Your baby might be moving around. All sorts of things can make it difficult to sleep.
As well as addressing some of the issues already discussed, if you’ve had a very good workout and especially if you’ve then eaten well, you’ll find it easier to sleep. This goes for everyone, women and men, pregnant and not pregnant.
Magically, exercise will not only help you to sleep when you need to, but also help you to keep fatigue at bay when it isn’t time to sleep. If you’re worrying and aching less than you might; if you’re sleeping pretty well and taking regular exercise of a type and frequency that feels right for you, you’ll probably feel less exhausted when you’re supposed to be awake.
What’s not to like?
If you don’t exercise whilst you’re pregnant, you’re more likely to gain weight, just like at any other time. Exercise improves your cardiovascular fitness and circulation, your physical strength, your mood and your self-esteem. Then of course, in case you missed it earlier:
You’re less likely to experience difficulties in birth and the length of time spent in labour is likely to be reduced!
Let‘s face it, the miracle of birth is a physical feat worth getting in shape for.
I know that there will be days when you just can’t, and that’s OK. On the days that you can, get in the gym!