8 Benefits of Prenatal Exercise

Planning to have a child? Then you may want to consider a prenatal exercise program.

Knowing the benefits that can come from exercise during pregnancy might give you the incentive that you need to either kick start or continue an exercise program.

Prenatal exercise is one of the most underserved areas of fitness. It is not enough to just be active or follow any exercise program. You want to make sure you are addressing the specific needs of a pregnant woman. 

Below we list 8 benefits of prenatal exercise.

1. Gain energy

Whether you are pregnant with baby # 1 or baby # 4, every pregnancy is different for each woman. During the first trimester, morning sickness and fatigue may hit you and you may feel like you have very little energy to exercise.

With all the changes that a woman will have with her body, exercising prior to pregnancy will help you be able to keep energy levels up during the first trimester.

If you have not been following an exercise program at least 2 months prior to pregnancy, it is not recommended that you start one during the first trimester as your body is already responding to new hormones and to the changes. In this case, a walking program is recommended to help boost your energy levels. 

2. Improve posture

9 to 10 months of carrying a baby in your body can take it's toll. Pregnant women often suffer posture issues like; excessive lordosis (arched lower back) and a kyphotic spine (rounded upper back). These compensations can also last after pregnancy if not addressed. 

Exercises that include strengthening the upper/middle back, glutes and core muscles will help to improve posture and prevent problems that come from these muscular imbalances. 

One thing we often teach our clients is to keep your ribs above your hips. By doing so you can keep your lower back in a neutral position. This is a key coaching cue when performing core exercises, squats and hip hinges. 

 A photo demonstrating "Ribs over Hips"   photo courtesy of www.diastasisrectified.com

A photo demonstrating "Ribs over Hips" 

photo courtesy of www.diastasisrectified.com

3. Reduce lower back pain

This ties in with number 2. The extra weight carried in the mother's belly causes a downward pull. This pull forces the spine into an arched position. The end result is often lower back pain. 

As a new mother, with all the new things you are dealing, with let's not allow lower back pain to be one of them. 

You want to make sure you are addressing the specific needs of a pregnant woman.

As mentioned above, strengthening the glutes and core muscles will play a large role in reducing and preventing lower back pain. 

4. Increase flexibility

Enjoy low impact exercises and the benefits of gentle tension stretching to improve flexibility.

There are a lot of changes that happen in the body. Excessive tension in specific areas can cause unnecessary pain and discomfort. Stretching in the right places and improving your flexibility will keep your changing body feeling good. 

Important muscles to stretch are the chest, lower back, hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves. 

5. Help prevent excessive weight gain

It is a known fact that a pregnant mother will gain weight throughout their pregnancy. But how much weight should we really be gaining?

The old saying, "I'm eating for two'" doesn't really apply. If you consider that the second person you're eating for grows from the size of a poppy seed to the size of a watermelon throughout your pregnancy, you don't need to be doubling your caloric intake. 

Take a look at this great infographic from Precision Nutrition about what to eat during pregnancy. 

 photo courtesy of www.precisionnutrition.com

photo courtesy of www.precisionnutrition.com

Both a healthy diet and a sound exercise program will help prevent excessive weight gain for the mother.

6. Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles

During pregnancy your pelvic floor muscles will get stretched. Depending on several factors they can stretch and weaken to a point where you begin to experience problems after pregnancy. 

A weak pelvic floor can lead to a weak core, inability to activate the proper muscles during exercise (which can all lead to low back pain), organ prolapse and other issues.

To put it plainly, you want to make sure you make time for pelvic floor exercises.

If you are training during or after pregnancy, pelvic floor exercises are an essential part of your exercise program.

Kegels are an example of well known pelvic floor exercises. For a thorough explanation on kegels watch this video.

7. Gain core strength

Strengthening your abdominal muscles and your entire core during pregnancy can help prevent lower back problems and poor posture which is caused by a protruding stomach. It also helps the mother to be able to push easier during labour as well as speed up the recovery process after labour.

Having a strong core could reduce the risk of diastasis recti abdominis (DRA), which is the horizontal separation of the abdominal muscle bellies along the linea alba. Hormones can cause the seam to soften, and as the baby grows, that seam stretches. If the abdominal area is weak it could cause a separation or tear.

 photo courtesy of www.serenitygrows.com

photo courtesy of www.serenitygrows.com

Having DRA can severely impact your ability to engage your core properly, which can significantly impact your every day living. Our core muscles are the centre of what we do on a physical level.

If you want to follow an exercise program and have had DRA, you might need much more specific attention than you probably thought you did.

Not only that but it can impact you in every day living. How often does a mother need to be lifting heavy things as a part of her daily routine? Lifting her child in and out of car seats, picking up toys off the floor, carrying a child while carrying grocery bags and her purse all at once. These all sound like the kind of things that need a strong core.

All the more reason to exercise while pregnant.

8. Meet new people /other mothers

 Having a social circle of other women who are going through the same experience as you is invaluable. Not only can they relate to the things that you are currently going through, they can provide you with valuable feedback and tips for a first time mother. 

As we mentioned in our post 9 Health and FItness Hacks for Busy People, social fitness is one of the best ways to save time. By getting your need to socialize and your need for fitness done at the same time, you will get more done in your week while staying healthy and fit.

Conclusion

In the past, doctors thought that pregnant women were fragile and needed to rest throughout their pregnancy. In the year 2016, we understand that a healthy mother equals a healthy baby.

Committing to a sound prenatal exercise program can be one of the best decisions you can make for not only yourself, but your baby as well. 

At Evertrain, we offer fitness classes that are specialized for pre and post natal women. If you or anyone you know might be interested, contact us by clicking this link and filling out the contact form.

Yours in health,

Julie

You might also like;

3 Things to Know About Post-Natal Fitness

3 Exercises You Should Be Doing After Pregnancy (and 1 You Should Avoid)