The benefits of physical activity for the pregnant woman

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Pregnancy and exercise – a story of changing advice

When Aliya Khalili’s mother went in to see her obstetrician during her first pregnancy, he told her she probably shouldn’t jump, run, or even walk. However, medical advice has changed since her mother’s time and Aliya, an exercise physiologist who studies pregnant women and their babies, knew her mother had been given the wrong advice. She was able to explain to her mom the positive ways that being active can help an expectant mother’s health. Women who exercise while pregnant are known to have lower risks of gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure than those who don’t.

Medical advice on pregnancy and exercise, from the past

For some years, doctors gave similar advice to Aliya’s mother’s obstetrician. Pregnancy was thought to be almost like an illness, a time when women needed to rest to protect themselves and their babies

Since then, research has turned that idea on its head. As long as the mother is healthy, exercise is now thought to be a boon for the mother’s health, and for the baby she carries as well.  Researchers are now starting to look even more closely at how exercise can influence a baby’s health in the womb, and how these effects might translate into protection from future health problems.

Heart Health and exercise in pregnancy

It’s been known that those who exercise, including pregnant women, tend to have lower resting heart rates. Lower heart rates can be a sign of an efficient heart; high heart rates have been linked to greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

Exercise during pregnancy, far from harming the fetus, can be incredibly beneficial for both mom and baby. Interestingly, exercise during pregnancy, as opposed to pre-pregnancy fitness, seems to be doing something extra-special. It is thought now that there is a positive link between the fetus’s heart health and the exercise done in pregnancy.

Benefits at Birth, and Beyond

Exercise benefits to the heart may last well into a child’s early life.  Children up to six years old still carry some of these early workouts with them and children whose moms exercised while pregnant have higher “ejection fractions,” which indicates their hearts are pumping blood more efficiently.

As for what types of exercise bring the most benefit, it is thought that aerobic exercise is great for the mom, but a mix of aerobics and strength training may be even better for the baby, although it’s not yet clear why.

Growing hearts might be one of many things helped by an active mom.  Exercise can help joint health by keeping weight down and taking the pressure off the body. It boosts positive hormones which make us feel good and keep us mentally well. Exercise also aids our immune systems, helping us fight off infection and a host of degenerative diseases linked to inflammation such as arthritis.

The list of benefits of exercise are endless but along with those already mentioned, exercise produces chemicals that promote sleep, lower blood pressure, improve mood and even help us to recover quicker after child birth.

Exercise during pregnancy: the choice is yours

Thankfully more and more moms like Aliya are taking up exercise and feeling the benefits to them and their expected babies. At Baby-Arabia we believe in giving you the information to make the right choices and we hope that experts like Aliya and examples like hers will help us to convince you to make that right choice. 

Pregnant women are not ill and do not need to rest all the time.

Exercise is good for pregnant women and should be part of any pregnant woman’s routine.

However please see a doctor before you begin exercise and make sure you listen to your body.  If it hurts – Stop!