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The Secret to Better Health in Pregnancy: Exercise!

Exercise in pregnancy

What if I told you that by doing just one activity, doing it well, and doing it every day, you’d be a rich person within a short time. You’d probably want to know how such a simple strategy would work. I’d explain that this one activity is a catalyst — a substance that increases the rate of a reaction. What if I told you that exercise in pregnancy is the key to your baby’s good health? You’d want to know how that works!

OK, honestly, I don’t have the remotest idea what one thing will make you rich. But I do know the one thing that will make you and your baby healthier during pregnancy — exercise! Now, to answer your question: How does that work?

Exercise is a catalyst

As famed American fitness and nutrition icon Jack LaLanne said, “Yes, exercise is the catalyst. That’s what makes everything happen: your digestion, your elimination, your sex life, your skin, hair, everything about you depends on circulation. And how do you increase circulation?”

Exercise.

Exercise is for everyone — including childbearing women

In her book, Physiology of Prenatal Exercise and Fetal Development, Dr. Linda May covers the effects of exercise in pregnancy on:

  • multiple fetal systems  
  • labor and birth
  • fetal and postnatal growth and development  
  • postnatal health and breastfeeding
  • practical aspects of exercise in pregnancy.

That last section includes barriers to exercise, details about aerobic exercise in pregnancy, strength training, and more. 

Exercise in pregnancy is safe

Dr. May joined me in a recent podcast where we discussed exercise before, during, and after pregnancy. A few facts jumped out at me:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that healthy women engage in 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity before, during and after pregnancy.
  • Women who are already involved in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity can continue to do so, with a physician’s guidance.
  • There’s no need for long, marathon sessions of exercise in pregnancy. However, 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of the two, each week is ideal. While it may often seem unrealistic to find time to exercise, taking time for yourself is good for mind and body.

Exercise provides benefits from head to toe

The benefits of exercise are plentiful, including weight loss, when not pregnant. But it goes far beyond that. Multiple studies have shown that exercise lowers the risk of heart disease, helps manage insulin and blood sugars, and improves sleep.  

Exercising can be an outlet for frustration and stress, and it has also been shown to improve mood disorders, such as depression. Releasing endorphins helps relieve pain and stress. Especially at a time when you may feel stressed, working up a sweat and burning off some steam helps, both short term and long term. Hence, exercise in pregnancy can be very helpful.

If you’re looking to be a rich person, you might try exercise to achieve that, too! Certainly, no one would trade wealth for health, but the two are not entirely unrelated. Many studies (such as this one) show that exercise stimulates proteins and chemicals which help to improve brain function. Dr. Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist, talked about her personal achievements in relation to increased exercise in a short but fascinating video. It’s probably not a far leap between a better, clearer brain, and a bigger bank account.

Exercise … just one thing?

Certainly, we can do a number of activities to improve our appearance and all of our bodily functions: eating better foods, getting better sleep, and many other good habits. But if you’re looking for a catalyst — something that will accelerate the change — exercise is the one thing you need. Exercise can be that catalyst whether you’re planning a pregnancy, pregnant, or postpartum (recovering from pregnancy).

Do just this one thing — exercise. Exercise in pregnancy. Exercise before and after pregnancy. Do it well, do it every day, and within a short time you’ll be a healthier person. Yes, continue doing all of the good stuff you’re doing to promote your good health., But if it’s going more slowly than you’d like, try using the catalyst — the one thing — that will accelerate your outcome: exercise.

Did you find benefits to exercise in pregnancy? How did exercise help you? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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