The benefits of exercise during pregnancy has for a long time been shrouded in a cloud of controversy. There are old wives tales on the one side and a slew of scientific jargon and medical research on the other. Evidence shows that fit mums give birth to leaner, stronger, healthier, and even smarter babies, who tend to have better motor-functioning, cardiovascular capacity, with a greatly reduced risk for developing obesity, diabetes, and other related health challenges as adults. Time Out Kids looks at the latest research and speaks to those in the know to sort out the myths from the facts.
Tweak your lifestyle
Feeling overwhelmed and slightly nauseous during this new season of your life is inevitable. However, switching your thoughts from the big belly blues to a new way of thinking about your robust and fruitful new figure will be like cocoa butter to your soul. By seeing the fusion of your unborn baby and your fitness levels as just a slight tweak of your current lifestyle, rather than a whole new set of habits, will make the transition into mummy-hood so much smoother.
It’s important to have a reality check before you commence or resume your exercise program over the next nine months, even if this is your second or third pregnancy. Ensure you have an ongoing conversation with your medical service provider – be it your doctor, gynecologist, obstetrician or midwife – about your activity levels and keep the following factors in mind:
Re-assess your Goals
First, you’ll have to adjust your goals. Chances are if you were exercising before your pregnancy, it was to either gain lean mass or lose fat. Obviously, when you’re pregnant, weight gain is to be expected. To this end, exercise intensity has to be kept in check. So get all ideas of building muscle and losing fat out of your mind. Your new focus should be maintaining your fitness while gaining a healthy, but not excessive, amount of weight. If you have never exercised before your pregnancy, be mindful of taking small actions towards building up a foundation of fitness. It will be beneficial to consult a personal trainer who specializes in pre natal training.
Modify your intensity levels
Remember, your first responsibility while pregnant is to create the optimal environment for your baby. We all know that smoking and drinking alcohol are out. However, you also need to keep your body temperature and heart rate in check. In order to do this, you’re going to have to pay close attention to your exercise intensity. According to Dr Michelle Mottola, exercise and pregnancy researcher at the University of Western Ontario: ‘If you can carry on a conversation without getting out of breath, then you are doing ok.’ This usually means that your heart rate shouldn’t climb higher than 70-75 per cent of the maximum (maximum heart rate = 220 minus your age) during aerobic exercise sessions.
Monitor your body temperature
Another strategy is to keep your body temperature under 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), especially during the third trimester. While human studies haven’t confirmed this, animal research shows that overheating can potentially cause birth defects. Just to be on the safe side, avoid exercise in hot or humid conditions (including hot yoga) and always remain hydrated during exercise. Furthermore, avoid traditional recovery methods like saunas, hot tubs, and steam showers during pregnancy. In addition, it’s a great idea to drink 0.5 to 1-litre of fluid during every workout. This can help to maintain hydration levels and manage body heat.
The morning (weeks, months and years) after!
Pre-natal specialist trainer at GloryGirl Grow, Ilse Onderweegs is expecting her second child and puts the emphasis on educating yourself about creating a healthy lifestyle for after baby is born. Attending antenatal classes or workshops that focuses on post-natal care for both yourself and your baby is key, she believes.
‘At GloryGirl Grow we want women to learn practical ways to make health and fitness a part of your lifestyle,’ Ilse says. ‘Pregnancy is the best time to educate yourself on how to exercise safely and also build and incorporate new healthy habits for you and your family. When the new baby says, “Hello world!” it will not be too overwhelming to carry on with your fitness regime and you’ll get into shape faster than you can shout, “Give me that darn epidural!”’
GloryGirl Grow holds monthly events at Optimal Fitness in Dubai Studio City focusing on pre- and post- natal fitness and nutrition education and group training sessions. Their next event is on Saturday, November 12 at 11am. For more information on events or pre-and post-natal group training schedules, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (04 457 2048).
In his latest findings, Dr John Berardi, PhD, Kinesiology and creator of Precision Nutrition states that the benefits of exercise during pregnancy include the following:
1. Lower risk of developing gestational diabetes
2. Weight control
3. Reduced postpartum depression
4. Less water retention
5. Larger placenta and more nutrients for your baby
6. Decreased likelihood of varicose veins
7. Less likely to require a caesarian delivery
8. More rapid return to pre-pregnancy weight
9. Leaner children up to five years after delivery
10. Increased fitness for delivery and for toting around that new baby stroller and diaper bag