Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Benefits of exercise for those "with child"

Today's Workout:
45-minute BodyJam workout (This wasn't a very strenuous workout really, but it was a lot of fun!)
35-minutes Eliptical

(Photo found here)

Sometimes while I'm at the gym, I get compliments for continuing to exercise while pregnant. But there are other times when I get some really strange looks and even a few comments such as "Are you sure you should still be doing that?" or "What would your doctor say?" or even "Be careful with the baby!" Generally these looks and comments come from older people (say 60+) and I know that advice back when these people were having babies was far different than today's recommendations. Pregnancy back in the 1960s was considered more of a disease than a natural phase of life and women were encouraged to lead pretty sedentary lives and engage in lots of bedrest. Of course like everything else, exercise during pregnancy has gone through phases of various recommendations. In 9 BC, Plutarch stated that the women of Sparta "...should harden their bodies with exercise of running, wrestling, throwing the bar, and casting the dart, so that they, by gathering strength thus by exercise, should more easily away the pains of childbearing" (Shrock).

Hmmmm....I think I would REALLY get some strange looks if I started wrestling and casting darts during my gym time!

Advice shifted again early in the twentieth century, with doctors who feared that exercise could damage the fetus, and recommended bed rest for even their most athletic patients.

However, another shift has occurred with the current generation that highly recommends exercise during pregnancy. According to Babycenter.com, there are seven great benefits of pregnancy exercise...

1. Boost your energy
2. Sleep better
3. Reduce pregnancy discomfort
4. Prepare for childbirth
5. Reduce stress and lift your spirits
6. Improve your self-image
7. Get your body back faster after childbirth

I also read that it can result in easier and shorter labors (woohoo, who wouldn't want this?!?!) Some studies have also shown that those who regularly engage in physical activity during pregnancy tended to have smaller and healthier children. Obviously this can be different for every person though. I have been blessed with two healthy children but certainly not "smaller" babies (at least at birth anyway.) I ran a marathon with my last baby and exercised up until the day of delivery and he still came out a chunky-monkey at 9 lb 14 oz. But I tend to believe that because I was in pretty good shape going into that delivery, his birth was fairly smooth and I pushed him out in less than 10 minutes despite his big size.

Of course, there are many cases when a woman should use extreme caution when exercising while pregnant and many others who are required to remain on bedrest for a good portion of their pregnancies. And it isn't always easy to get out there and do it even during a normal pregnancy, especially during the first trimester when nausea can be so bad and during the third trimester when tiredness, achiness, and general "largeness" are difficult to overcome. But for healthy and normal pregnancies, exercise is great for both mother and baby and has many lasting benefits. Maybe I should make a t-shirt with all of these benefits and wear it to the gym to avoid those well-intentioned but ill-informed comments!!


  1. I am so glad views on exercise during pregnancy have changed as well. :) I just wanted to add that any little bit of exercise can really make a difference when you are pregnant. My first pregnancy I was pretty active and I ran until about 20 weeks and did water aerobics the other half. But my second pregnancy I was more sick and wasn't able to be as active. I still walked one-two miles several times a week and did moderate yoga stretches. And I felt like I still got the benefits of exercise during pregnancy. Every woman has to listen to her body and do what works for her, but even the simplest things (like walking and stretching) can make a difference.

  2. Making a t-shirt would be great! Ha ha. I agree. I have exercised up to the day with all of our kids and no matter how strenuous the exercise it makes me feel better. And, listening to your body is so important. I applaud women who exercise while pregnant. It is not always easy, but worth it.