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Benefits of exercise during pregnancy

A lot of changes happen to our bodies when we are pregnant, both physically and mentally.  It is important that we adjust to accommodate these changes to ensure that ourselves and our babies are the healthiest we can be.

Continuing with exercise after you have found out you’re pregnant can be scary.  There are lots of articles on the internet telling you exactly what you can’t do, making you feel like the only option is a gentle walk or a swim.  That’s rubbish! Provided you are guided by a qualified professional in pre- and post-natal exercise, you will be able to continue exercising.

Exercise is one of the most positive ways of helping you to enjoy a happy, healthy pregnancy, here are just some of the benefits;

Decreased risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes

You gain less weight and deposit less fat by exercising during pregnancy, leaving a healthier you.

It is important to note that overweight and obese women (and generally women with a BMI of over 30) will often have more negative symptoms and complications during their pregnancy than women with a ‘normal’ BMI and those who are active.

It provides more energy to mum

You might be feeling too tired to do anything whilst you’re pregnant. Exercise releases endorphins which make you happy and give you energy, so even if you’re feeling lethargic, try to force yourself to try a little bit of exercise. 9 times out of 10, it’ll make you feel better! Be careful to listen to your body though, if you start exercise but it doesn’t feel good then stop and rest.

It enhances mood and well-being

Remember those endorphins we mentioned….well, these enhance your mood and leave you feeling exhilarated.  Exercise is one of the best stress relievers, so if you’ve had a rubbish day and wish you could pour yourself a glass of wine, then pop on your trainers and workout instead.

Because exercise helps keep your pregnancy weight gain within a healthy limit, you’ll also feel better about yourself and about the changes in shape that are happening to your body.  Helping you to be less self-conscious.  We don’t advocate exercise to lose weight during pregnancy, but we do encourage you to exercise to avoid putting on excessive weight – there is a huge difference between the two, please appreciate this difference.

It decreases musculoskeletal pain

Day to day, pregnancy can be uncomfortable! Are you suffering from;

  • Swelling

  • Gastrointestinal discomforts (digestion issues, unable to go to the loo)

  • Leg cramps

  • Back Pain

  • Aches

These are all improved through exercising regularly during pregnancy.  Swelling is reduced as a result of the increased circulation induced by being active – getting the blood pumping around your body.  Movement is one of the best aids for constipation, yes really! So if you’re feeling bunged up, do some exercise and get your body jiggling those intestines in to action.

Back pain and aches are often as a result of sitting or lying still for long periods of time, you might feel like you’ve seized up and moving hurts, the best way to overcome this is to start with some gentle exercise and build up slowly.  Exercise and movement releases a lubricant in to your joints to help them move smoothly and with less friction, easing the pain and the aches.

You might also find that your back aches because of the added weight you’re carrying on your front, baby and boobs are heavy, and your body isn’t used to the sudden shift in load.  Strengthening your back, core (this does not mean sit ups!) and rest of your body will help it cope with the increasing load, taking the stress off those weaker muscles.

It helps to improve sleep

Exercise aids sleep because it your body is trying to repair itself after exercise, sleep is where the magic of repair and rejuvenation happens.

Also, because your aches and pains have decreased, you’re much more comfortable thus making sleep easier.

Again, those happy endorphins we mentioned earlier will have helped you to de-stress and clear your mind, making it much easier to switch off when you hit the pillow.

It can result in shorter labour

Think about what much of labour entails, it’s a physical task that can last from just a few hours to 1 or 2 days.  You need to prepare your body to be able to perform this amazing feat, -you wouldn’t turn up to run a marathon with no training, would you? It’s equally as important to be fit, healthy and prepared for labour.

Becoming tired in labour can slow down the process, you want your muscles to be capable of endurance and to be strong enough to support pushing your baby.  This doesn’t mean going to the gym and lifting weights! Careful bodyweight exercises targeted especially for labour can be done at home and shouldn’t be too strenuous.

Decreased chance of Diastasis Recti

Diastasis Recti is the splitting of the stomach muscles which run long-ways down the centre of your stomach, either side of your belly button. It can have debilitating effects, causing back pain, loss of abdominal muscle function and cosmetic issues after birth – for example you may still look pregnant months after birth. Some studies show that women who exercised regularly during pregnancy were less likely to have diastasis recti.

Helps with a faster post-partum recovery

If you’re worried about getting your pre-pregnancy body back after birth, or just want to get back to being fit enough to look after your baby, exercise during pregnancy will make the post-birth process much easier and faster. -You are starting off from a higher level in the first place.

It will also help with how you feel after the birth – because you are fit you will take less time to recover from the tiredness and muscle fatigue brought on by labour, allowing you to enjoy more time with your beautiful baby!

With all these benefits, why would you stop training? You just need to adjust your plan and listen to your body.

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