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Keeping Fit While Pregnant

Rachel O'Reilly

By Aaryn Leineke

Staying fit while pregnant has a near-endless list of benefits, both during your pregnancy and after childbirth. Below are just a few of them:

  • Decreased risk of gestational diabetes and long-term obesity

  • Control of gestational diabetes

  • Improved energy levels

  • Improved posture

  • Improved muscle tone, strength and endurance

  • Possible faster delivery

  • Enhanced/faster recovery from childbirth

  • Reduced backaches

  • Reduced bloating and swelling

  • Reduced risk of postpartum depression and anxiety

But which type of exercise you should do, and how strenuous it should be, are the real questions. Women whom are already fit, and have been active/training regularly when they become pregnant, sometimes want to keep their pre-pregnancy workouts consistent. And while those woman can possibly tolerate more strenuous activities like CrossFit, ballet, jogging, your favorite aerobic classes, etc., keep in mind that having a baby growing inside of you already puts a higher strain on your ligaments, joints and organs.

Additionally, during pregnancy, your body is full of a hormone called relaxin, which helps prep your body for birth. Relaxin helps loosen your ligaments and joints, for example in your hips, and can make you feel like you are more flexible than you actually are. This can cause you to accidentally take your workout too far, resulting in injury.

So, while it’s important to stay active during pregnancy, especially if you led an active lifestyle before conceiving, there’s no shame in erring on the lighter side of more intense workouts. Always listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard.

On the other hand, for many women, it can be daunting to think about working out while pregnant. Like we just said, you’re already putting a higher strain on your ligaments, joints and organs, right?! But “staying fit” can be accomplished by making small changes, as simple as walking to the grocery store instead of driving, sitting on a yoga ball or stretching while watching nighttime TV.

In addition to making small lifestyle changes, prenatal yoga, walking, tai chi, light weight-lifting, sex, swimming and meditation (mental exercise!) are all wonderful types of exercise during pregnancy, whether you’re already familiar with some of these, or may be beginning a new practice after learning that you’re expecting.

It can be a challenge to prioritize staying fit during your pregnancy, but the benefits (for your pregnancy and postpartum recovery) of remaining active and keeping a balanced, nutrient-rich diet will far outweigh the potential challenges. The trick is to find ways to work gentle activity into your day, in a format that’s enjoyable and sustainable throughout your pregnancy.