Whether fit or not, the question of prenatal fitness and exercise is one that many an expectant mother may feel uncertain about. According to recent research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, which determined that exercise during pregnancy has a distinct molecular consequence on the unborn child that essentially allows the child to be more fit. Prenatal fitness is also an imperative for the budding mom’s own health with respect to both her physical and emotional well-being, before and during her pregnancy and delivery. The Houston Family Examiner recently had the opportunity to discuss prenatal fitness with leading prenatal fitness expert Amy Griffith. She's here to give us some tips on being fit and healthy during pregnancy.
Eight fitness and exercise tips for expectant mothers:
1. Start now. If a woman becomes pregnant and has not had a structured fitness routine beforehand, she can certainly start now—and should since exercise develops muscle tone, can help prevent gestational diabetes, aids in digestion and can help lower blood pressure. Just be sure to begin with some gentle forms of exercise.
2. Exercise to release endorphins. Exercise not only has countless physical benefits with keeping muscles toned, maintaining healthy body fat levels, and improving cardiovascular health among them, but it also releases endorphins that can help boost mood, improve self-esteem, reduce anxiety and depression, decrease stress, alleviate pain and improve sleep. All of these can greatly enhance the lifestyle of a pregnant woman, helping her enjoy the overall experience.
3. Yes, “do abs.” Pregnant women still have them and will benefit from strengthening them in advance of delivery. Exercising abs and the entire core group of muscles will help prevent back and posture problems caused by the growing stomach, will make pushing more effective pushing during labor, and will help the new mother recover quicker.
4. Try yoga: Yoga is not just about gaining strength and flexibility, and finding calm in moments of stress; it also helps slow down our busy lives. And, prenatal yoga is a very safe form of exercise.
5. Cardiovascular exercise is a-ok. While a pregnant woman who is exercising may tire out more quickly, there is no evidence that such exertion is harmful to her baby. The general rule of thumb is if a pregnant woman can continue to carry on a conversation while performing an exercise routine, then she is in a cardiovascular safe zone.
6. Set a fitness mantra. A mantra is a positive intention—a word or phrase that you come back to daily to “check in” and be reminded that everything is ok and on course. Setting a mantra will help you to trust your body, and accept the changes that are occurring physically.
7. Massage to recover faster. A carefully delivered massage from a prenatal massage specialist can alleviate pain in various parts of the body that can be caused by too much physical activity—exercise and otherwise.
8. Meditate to de-stress. Meditating can connect to a mantra you set or simply help to quiet down, clear your mind, calm your nervous system and lower your blood pressure
The benefits of prenatal fitness are numerous. Expectant moms may feel more confident, strong, as well as provide her body with much needed assistance during a time that it is needed. It may also provide future benefits to both mother and child.
Even activity as simple as walking is hugely beneficial to a pregnant woman. She can even run, bike, dance and strength train as long as it still feels safe for her body. Whatever modality of exercise she decides to engage in, it is always of utmost importance that she listen to her body and recognize individual limitations.
Amy Griffith is one of America's leading prenatal fitness and lifestyle experts as well as a Nationally certified Prenatal Yoga Instructor, and star of her own "Active Prenatal Yoga" Workout DVD for expectant mothers. She provides free advice, including eBook and video content, online at www.AmyGriffithWorkout.com.
Disclaimer: *The above should not be construed as medical advice. Individuals should consult with their own physicians before starting any fitness or exercise regime.