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Pregnancy and Exercise: Can You Continue?

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Learning what types and levels of exercise are still appropriate during pregnancy can be a stressful experience. Some women become overwhelmed by the conflicting opinions of others and end up dropping their exercise patterns altogether.

If our bodies are used to being very active, becoming inactive can really bring down our happiness and make us feel low.

McKenna Bullock, a Medical Assistant at a women’s clinic, said, “Staying active during pregnancy is definitely recommended! We always tell women to keep up whatever exercise routine they’re used to doing prior to pregnancy, but to avoid starting any new regimens.”

If your body is used to working out a certain way, then maintaining that will be perfectly safe – just don’t overdo it! “I once met with a woman who was preparing for a marathon right before she got pregnant. We advised her not to continue training for the full 26-mile marathon, but told her she could still run a half marathon and be fine. If you’re used to running – run! If not, stick to walking and other non-strenuous exercises,” Bullock said.

As I was contemplating this topic, I thought about Charlotte in the movie “Sex and the City.” Typically a runner, she becomes so afraid of harming her baby while she’s pregnant that she stops altogether and loses the mood-boosting high she’s used to getting from running. Then, after being reassured that it’s perfectly safe to continue exercising, she throws on her running shoes and gets back out there!

Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy benefits both mother and child, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Since exercise increases fitness, it is associated with healthier babies, limited discomfort and weight gain, and an easier labor. Exercise during pregnancy also provides many psychological benefits.

Reduced Physical Discomfort

When you are pregnant, the discomfort of backache, constipation, fatigue, and swelling may become a nuisance. Being active during your pregnancy can reduce the physical pain you experience. Exercising improves circulation, which leads to reduced swelling and better nutrient digestion, absorption, and utilization. In addition, good circulation will lessen your risk of developing varicose veins.

Decreased labor length

While labor length is always variable, research has shown that women who exercise often at moderate to high intensity have labors that are 1/3 shorter than the deliveries of women who don’t exercise. Dr. James Clapp, author of Exercising through Your Pregnancy ,has pioneered studies showing that exercise leads to an easier pregnancy and delivery. His study of 500 pregnant women established that pregnant women who exercised found time spent in labor was shortened by one third, with 65% of women delivering in four hours or less.

Reduced Stress

Exercise provides you with a great stress release. The endorphins released during exercise provide positive psychological effects, reducing stress and improving your mood, says Molly Kimball, registered dietitian and board certified specialist in sports dietetics. Exercise can also improve your self-image and help you sleep better.

Increased Energy

When you are nauseated and fatigued it is normal to lack the motivation and drive to exercise. Gradually beginning an exercise program is likely to improve these symptoms. Exercising boosts your energy and improves endurance, which may help you manage pain during labor.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Obstetric Practice recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day for pregnant women. Nonetheless, consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

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