Weight and body changes are totally normal (and expected!) parts of pregnancy. And while exercise may be the last thing you want to do when nausea, fatigue and stress take over, exercising can actually help nearly every pregnancy ailment.
Yes, you do have to get off the couch to work out, and you probably don’t feel like doing it. But exercise may be able to help you with some of that pregnancy depression, with those aches and pains and even with labor.
Check with your doctor, then pop on your maternity activewear and hit the mat stat.
Exercise boosts your mood
Notice you’re feeling a little more cranky or depressed lately? This is a very normal, albeit unfortunate pregnancy symptom that half of pregnant women report. You may feel like getting under the covers and sleeping your way through the next 9 months. But exercising while pregnant releases endorphins (you know, the runner’s high?) that naturally boost your mood while lowering your stress and anxiety, according to a study published in the Journal of Physiotherapy. Just exercising three times a week for 30 minutes should significantly improve your anxiety or depression symptoms, the Mayo Clinic says. But even 10-15 minutes will put you in a better mood. Don’t feel like it? Try putting on your maternity workout clothing, and you may find that you eventually get to the gym or go for that walk.
Exercise reduces pregnancy issues
Often, our pregnancy issues are totally beyond our control (hi, weird cravings!). Usually, there’s nothing we could do to prevent this very annoying but sometimes scary problem that could pop up. Thankfully, studies found that exercising when you’re pregnant will lower the odds of developing gestational diabetes. One study by University of Tennessee researchers found that those who exercised during their first trimester for at least 38 minutes per day five days per week lowered their risk by 2 percent, and lowered their risk of abnormal blood sugar by 5 percent. Statistically, six to 10 women out of 100 get gestational diabetes, so being active could reduce this number by two out of every hundred. Still got gestational diabetes? Follow your doctor’s advice, and chances are, everything should be perfectly fine.
Exercise reduces your risk of having a c-section
First, we just want to say that having a c-section is not a failure of a birth. It all leads to the birth of a baby, and that’s the end goal. If you’re trying to avoid a c-section, however, you may want to exercise. A massive study involving more than 50 researchers from 41 institutions found that doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity weekly (so about 20 minutes per day) combined with a health diet will significantly reduce your weight gain during pregnancy, and will reduce your risk of having issues leading to a c-section, regardless of your BMI, age or ethnicity pre-pregnancy.
Exercising zaps pregnancy fatigue
Yes, it totally sounds counter-intuitive. You want to take a 3-hour nap, and instead, we’re suggesting that you pop on some pregnancy activewear and start moving. But a study found that exercising for just 4 weeks during pregnancy will snap you right out of your sleepy state. It increases your energy levels, your posture, your strength and your endurance - and you don’t even have to do a ridiculously difficult workout to achieve results. One study found that just doing six low-to-moderate intensity resistance or stretch exercises twice a week will increase your physical and mental fatigue. P.S. This doesn’t mean you can’t take a nap as soon as you’re done if you’re still sleepy.
Exercising eases labor
What if we told you that your labor would be shorter and less exhausting if you exercised throughout your pregnancy? Sounds like a pretty good trade-off, right? A 2018 study examined 500 pregnant women who were assigned to do a moderate aerobic exercise three times per week throughout their pregnancy, and their labors were compared with women who didn’t exercise during pregnancy. Those who exercised had an average of 409 minutes of early labor versus 462 in the non-exercising group; and a total labor duration of 450 versus 507 minutes. The women who exercised were also less likely to use an epidural. That part is totally optional.