Benefits Of Exercise During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of great change in a women’s body. Exercise has an ever-increasing role in our health and wellbeing, whether pregnant or not and comprehensive research has been done on the effects of exercise during pregnancy.

It has been shown that in most cases, exercise is safe and beneficial for both mother and the growing baby, and it is recommended that pregnant women start or continue exercising to gain the associated health benefits during their pregnancy.

Exercise during pregnancy should be done with medical guidance, but is safe assuming there are no medical risks and that there is no sudden increase in exercise levels.


Benefits of exercising during pregnancy

For normal pregnancies, regular weight bearing exercise has been shown to improve the fitness of both mother and baby. It can reduce excessive weight gain without affecting the growth of the baby, protect against coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. It can also improve bone density.

Conversely, being sedentary during pregnancy can result in reduced cardiovascular and muscular fitness, excessive weight gain, and increased risks of gestational diabetes mellitus, pre-eclampsia, and varicose veins.

Fatigue, constipation, varicose veins, and swollen feet and ankles are reduced in women who exercise. They have also been shown to experience less stress, anxiety and depression, and have better sleep patterns.

Research also suggests that the babies of exercising women may tolerate labour better than those of non-exercising women. It also suggests that foetal stress during labour is less in women who continue to exercise at 50% of the levels they were before pregnancy, than it is in those who exercised before pregnancy and then discontinued within the first three months of the pregnancy.

Muscle strength

Muscle strength is important to protect joints whether pregnant or not, and this is doubly important in pregnant women where joints will have increased laxity and there is an altered centre of gravity and posture. One study has shown that weight gain in pregnancy may increase hip and knee joint forces by up to 100% in weight bearing exercise, so it is important to stay strong to protect your musculoskeletal system.

Precautions for exercising

Both exercise and pregnancy raise the metabolic rate, so it is important to keep the body temperature from rising excessively (hyperthermia). Try to stay cool, for example by exercising with few or loose clothes, to exercise in a cool environment or to use fans etc. Pregnant women do perspire more readily, which helps with temperature control. Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated. Pregnant women are more likely to become hypoglycaemic, so adequate calories should be eaten before and after exercise.

Avoid exercising supine (lying on your back) after the 16th -20th weeks. The pressure of the baby can compress the vena cava and reduce blood flow in the mother, resulting in feeling faint, associated with lower maternal cardiac output in this position and symptomatic hypotension.

Weight gain

Normal weight gain for a woman through a pregnancy is approximately 10-15 kg, and should largely be around the abdomen and pelvis. Excessive weight gain, in addition to normal “baby weight gain” during pregnancy can be a big problem for many women, and exercise, along with a healthy diet can help to minimise this.

Positive effects on sleep and anxiety

Aerobic exercise may also help to reduce the onset and severity of postnatal depression. A study by Pritchett et al in 2017 looked at 13 trials comparing aerobic exercise with other interventions such as medication, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and self-help books, either on its own or alongside the other interventions. The study showed that the positive impact of aerobic exercise on postnatal depression was significant. From this, the authors have suggested that aerobic exercise should be taken into consideration to both treat and reduce the risk of postnatal depression. Exercise therefore can provide a drug free addition to the treatment and prevention of postnatal depression, as well as providing the mother with the other numerous benefits of exercise.

In addition to the positive effects of keeping active on postnatal depression, women who exercise during pregnancy have also been shown to experience less stress, anxiety, and have better sleep patterns.

Me time!

Exercise is a great way to do something for yourself, a way to switch off and it can be very relaxing to do. It can also be a great way to do something “normal” in a time of lots of changes to your body.
Over the years I have worked with a number of the physios at CSPC, I have found them to be up to date with their thinking and treatments, willing to share their knowledge with one and other and clients. I always recommend CSPC to friends and clients. They have helped hold body and soul together, thank you.

I am absolutely delighted with the shockwave treatment I have received at CSPC physiotherapy Clinic and the results it has produced. Each session has measurably reduced the size of my bursitis to the point it has almost gone, with corresponding improvement in my range of movement and comfort in the affected area. It has also ameliorated calcification in my shoulder. A great big thank you to Alison and Julianna for your help!

I cannot believe how well I feel. Four years ago, I felt consigned to the ‘rust pile’, today I feel ‘shiny’ and ready for the next challenge. CSPC can seriously alter your way of life …for the better.

Within the one hour appointment I received hands on treatment that relieved most of my pain and by the evening I was breathing and moving pain free. By the following morning I was back to ‘full dad duties’ much to the surprise of my partner, who with seeing how quickly I had recovered, started to think I’d made it all up to have a good rest!

After a long car journey to Leeds, I arrived with some discomfort in my upper back that worsened over the next day to the point that I could hardly breathe or move without feeling excruciating pain.

I’d done a gym session a week or so previously and had felt some discomfort in my back but rested and thought nothing of it. A long car journey combined with caring for two young children resulted in me having excruciating back pain and if it wasn’t for getting an emergency appointment at CSPC physiotherapy clinic I would not have made it home and probably checked myself into A&E!

Within the one hour appointment I received hands on treatment that relieved most of my pain and by the evening I was breathing and moving pain free. By the following morning I was back to ‘full dad duties’ much to the surprise of my partner, who with seeing how quickly I had recovered, started to think I’d made it all up to have a good rest!
Thanks CSPC physiotherapy for getting me back to my best – super quickly!



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