It is well established that physical activity, including aerobic conditioning and strength training, is safe for almost all women having a normal pregnancy. Additionally, there appear to be significant benefits for mom and baby to maintaining an active lifestyle, including chronic disease management, weight optimization, improved mental health, decreased risk of gestational diabetes, hypertension, low back pain, as well as benefits to the health and development of baby. Even with these known benefits and well-established safety profile, many pregnant women have difficulty starting or continuing an exercise program, and many are often discouraged by those around them.
A great way to stay motivated is to sign up for an exercise group or program to meet other women like you and commit to being active for both you and your baby. One such program is a Prenatal Bootcamp designed by Papineau Training . This program involves cardiovascular and strength training activities in a welcoming, outdoor environment with a focus on improving all of the above medical conditions while connecting you with local soon-to-be moms like you!
Classes start April 3rd and run for 6 weeks until May 8th. They are held Sundays at 10-11am in Manotick. The program costs just $63 total. See below for more details.
While you consider signing up, here are some reasons to include physical activity as part of your prenatal living:
Exercise has been shown time and time again to be beneficial to mental health status including depression, stress and anxiety and this holds true during pregnancy. Specific benefits include reduced stress, anxiety and fatigue, improved self-esteem, and increased energy.
Exercise may also benefit post-partum depression, with lower depression scores recorded 6 weeks postpartum in women who were moderately physically active during their third trimester.
Low Back Pain, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Diastasis Recti
Fifty-90% of pregnant women report some form of back pain during their pregnancy. Back pain has been associated with increased weight gain, altered mechanics, and hormone effects on tissues and joints. Physical activity and core stabilization exercises have been shown to reduce back and pelvic girdle pain.
Pregnancy related urinary incontinence may be prevented through focused conditioning exercises as well as decreased pushing time related to improved physical fitness.
Diastasis Recti, or abdominal muscle (rectus abdominus) separation, is a common condition occurring in almost 67% of pregnant women. This condition often spontaneously resolves, but if persistent can produce pelvic dysfunction and pain.
Gestational diabetes is characterized by increased insuling resistance first diagnosed during pregnancy, with up to 60% of women developing type 2 diabetes within four years of delivery (2). Risk factors include a family history of diabetes, ethnicity, maternal age, physical inacitivity, obesity, previous gestational diabetes, and a history of macrosomic babies. Woman who are overweight have up to a 6.5 times greater risk of developing gestational diabetes as compared to normal weight woman, which puts them at increased risk of type 2 diabetes later on in life.
Additionally, gestational diabetes is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and obesity for the baby later on in life.
Both the Canadian and the American Diabetes Associations recommend physical activity as part of the management program for gestational diabetes. It appears that mild exercise, alongside nutritional changes, can help manage or prevent gestational diabetes and excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
High Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy involving high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling caused by fluid (edema). This can be a dangerous condition to mom and baby during pregnancy, and may also predispose the woman to high blood pressure later on in life.
According to one Canadian study, “Women who participated regularly in recreational physical activity during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy experienced a 43% reduction in risk of preeclampsia as compared to sedentary women.” This finding was supported by other similar studies, with a reduction in preeclampsia proportional to the duration and intensity of exercise. And it doesn’t just have to be dedicated workouts to yield these benefits. Many activities of daily living, including walking and stairclimbing, are also associated with a significant reduction in risk of preeclampsia.
There are many concerns regarding the impact of physical activity on baby development and health, including risk of abortion, growth restriction, premature labour, premature separation of the placenta, low birth weight, and brain damage, leading to poor ongoing development, poor academic performance, obesity, hypertension and insulin resistance. Current evidence suggests that these concerns are not founded, and that most physical activity appears to benefit baby.
(1) Colberg et al. 2010. Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 33(12): e147-167.
(2) ACSM Roundtable Consesus Statement. Impact of Physical Activity during Pregnancy and Postpartum on Chronic Disease Risk. Med Sci Sports Exerc: 989-1006.