The benefits of moving more during pregnancy begin immediately and last your whole life. Your baby will start reaping the benefits in utero, too. Here’s a laundry list of reasons to start exercising today, along with excuse-busting ways to overcome some common obstacles.
1. You’re likely to gain less weight. Research shows you might put on 7 pounds less than pregnant women who don’t work out, while still staying within the healthy weight-gain range.
2. Labor and delivery may be easier. No guarantees, of course, but strong abs and a fit cardiovascular system can give you more oomph and stamina for the pushing stage. One study found that prenatal water aerobics regulars were 58 percent less likely to request pain medication during labor than non-exercisers.
3. You lower your gestational diabetes risk by as much as 27 percent. High blood sugar during pregnancy puts you at extremely high risk for developing type II diabetes in the decade after delivering and raises the odds of preterm delivery or having an overweight baby. If you do develop it—and many fit women do because genetics and age play a significant role—exercise may help prevent or delay your need for insulin or other medications.
4. You get that “prenatal-spin-class high.” Active moms- to-be report better moods than their sedentary peers, both immediately following a workout and in general throughout their pregnancies.
5. You’re less likely to cry, “Oh, my aching back.” Some two-thirds of pregnant women experience back pain, but water workouts, yoga and pelvic tilts can offer relief. Exercise during the second half of pregnancy seems to be especially helpful.
6. You’re less likely to get constipated. Pregnant women’s intestinal tracts often get backed up due to high progesterone levels and a growing uterus, but exercise, along with a high-fiber diet, keeps your digestive system humming.
7. You have more energy. On days when lifting your remote control seems like a tall order, even a 10-minute walk can revive you.
8. Odds are, you’ll deliver a svelter baby. Babies born with excess fat are significantly more likely to become overweight kindergarteners, and overweight newborns of moms with gestational diabetes are more prone to develop diabetes later in life.
9. You can enjoy the greatest flexibility of your life. Relaxin, a pregnancy hormone that loosens your pelvic joints in preparation for delivery, also relaxes the rest of your joints. With careful stretches, like those done in prenatal yoga workouts, you can capitalize on this window of opportunity.
10. You’re more likely to avoid a forceps delivery, C-section or other intervention. Regular exercisers are 75 percent less likely to need a forceps delivery, 55 percent less likely to have an episiotomy and up to four times less likely to have a Cesarean section, research has found.