Exercising during pregnancy

As a woman and one that is also planning to have a family, I can tell you that a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy will help you stay healthy and feel your best. You probably know that already. Certain types of exercise can also improve your posture and therefore decrease some common discomforts like backaches and fatigue.

There is evidence that it may prevent you from gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), relieve stress, and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery. In the past, we were urged to cut down on or even avoid exercise during pregnancy. Today, we know differently. Not only is it OK to participate in fitness activities during pregnancy, but doing so, can have a positive impact on both baby and mom. The level and intensity of exercise whilst pregnant is dependent on your fitness levels pre-pregnancy, of course.If you were not very active pre-pregnancy, this is not the time to train for a marathon:) You know that.

“You need to be physically active during pregnancy. It has terrific benefits that are associated with a better pregnancy outcome and even shorter labors. It’s a win-win for baby and for mom,” says high-risk pregnancy expert Laura Riley, MD, spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and author of “Pregnancy: You and Your Baby”.

Pregnant women endure many discomforts. In addition to having their bladders pressed on and their legs wrenched with cramps, they get backaches, shortness of breath and swollen ankles. They also have trouble sleeping. For many women, regular stretching is the answer. Limbering up and loosening muscles is useful because it makes it easier to carry the excess burden you don’t normally carry. When muscles are relaxed and flexible, they can handle the weight more comfortably and safely.

The enlargement of your breasts can cause your chest muscles to shorten, especially if your upper-back muscles are not strong enough, which results in rounded shoulders and back. Your calf muscles tend to cramp, some experts believe, because of calcium redistribution or metabolism during pregnancy. Your growing uterus can cause your center of gravity to shift, making balance a bit awkward and difficult at times. The result: a deeply curved lower back, strained back muscle and sometimes pain.

Stretching will help realign and strengthen your muscles and ease the stress and strain on your joints during pregnancy. It has been proven to increase circulation, increasing the blood flow and supply of nutrients to the muscles and cartilage. This reduces muscle soreness. Stretching also releases tension in the back and helps alleviate pain and discomfort. Plus, you can do it anywhere, anytime (even if you spend most of your day sitting down) and you don´t have to break a sweat! You should try to stretch yourself four to five times per week or whenever you feel the need to stretch, specially if you are particularly prone to back pain. Be sure to breathe deeply and regularly as you stretch.

Supplement stretches with a regular aerobic program such as walking, three to five times a week for about 20 minutes. If you currently are strength training, continue doing so for as long as you are comfortable; you also can use stretches as a cool-down for your regular workout. Always consult your doctor though, prior to embarking on any prenatal exercise program.

If you do only one exercise during your pregnancy, make it Kegel’s. Kegel exercises help strengthen the muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and bowels. By strengthening these muscles during your pregnancy, you can develop the ability to relax and control the muscles in preparation for labor and birth. Kegel exercises are also highly recommended during the postpartum period to promote the healing of perineal tissues, increase the strength of the pelvic floor muscles, help these muscles return to a healthy state, and increase urinary control.

To do Kegels, imagine you are trying to stop the flow of urine. When you do this, you are contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor and are practicing Kegel exercises. While doing Kegel exercises, try not to move your leg, buttock, or abdominal muscles. In fact, no one should be able to tell that you are doing Kegel exercises. So you can do them anywhere!

The aches and discomforts are not designed to make you miserable, though that it is often the upshot. They are the side effects of the preparations your body is making for that momentous moment when your baby is born. Some things that may help reduce backaches include:

– Wearing low-heeled shoes.
– Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs.
– Sitting in a chair with good back support.
– Trying not to stand for long periods of time.
– Bending your knees when picking things up, instead of bending at the waist.
– Applying heat or cold on the particular area, or massaging the area.
– Avoiding lifting heavy objects.

Growing a baby is hard work! Even with the discomforts of pregnancy, many women report feeling healthier than they have ever felt before. Believe it or not, research shows that babies of moms who exercise throughout pregnancy score higher on general intelligence tests. Exercising may boost your muscle power and baby´s brain power!!

What are you waiting for?

I am a physiotherapist and a Stretch therapist with Stretch Asia. Active Assisted Stretching is our core competency. If you want more information about pregnancy exercises and stretching, I will be more than happy to have a session with you. We will create a customize program and we will run through all your questions and doubts.

Happy and safe pregnancy!

Aida Iglesias Perez

August 20, 2014

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