Yeah, yeah, fitness should be its own reward. But on days when that’s not enough motivation, remember this: Exercise is as close as you can get to a panacea for common pregnancy complaints.
Keeping fit can help you look and feel great, prepare you for labor and improve fetal development. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out our easy, effective workouts.
And the next time you need to convince yourself to get moving, remember the benefits of exercise described here.
1. Rev Those Engines
Next time you say, “I’m too tired to exercise,” think again. “People might be surprised at how much better exercise will make them feel and how much energy they feel they have,” says Lenita Anthony, an exercise physiologist and Reebok University master trainer. Regular training helps elevate metabolism, regulate core-body temperature more effectively and improve sleep. It also helps pregnant bodies pump the extra blood volume of pregnancy more efficiently. All of this enhances a pregnant woman’s overall well-being, says Anthony, who is writing a book for the American Council on Exercise called Pre- and Post-natal Fitness (ACE Books).
2. Improve Circulation
Exercise promotes circulation and stimulates the digestive processes, which help prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, leg cramps and swelling in the ankles.
3. Prevent Gestational Diabetes
Hormones from the placenta create a state of insulin resistance which in some patients can lead to gestational diabetes. This condition can mean larger babies, C-sections and possibly Type II diabetes. By working out and eating sensibly to keep weight gain within a normal range, pregnant women can help prevent gestational diabetes, says Gerald Bernstein, M.D., past president of the American Diabetes Association.
4. Improve Your Mood
Exercise can improve self-esteem, reduce symptoms of depression and lessen mood swings. Among the many explanations (changing brain chemistry, improved sleep, reduced stress and the euphoria of endorphins), one important factor is the feeling of control it brings. “During pregnancy, our bodies do their own thing. They just grow and grow, and we don’t have a lot of control,” says Michelle F. Mottola, Ph.D., director of the Exercise and Pregnancy Laboratory at the University of Western Ontario. “When we exercise, we’re doing something for our bodies and taking back a little control.”