How to Be More Active During Pregnancy (and Why It Can Help Your Baby)

Whether you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you’ve probably heard that it’s important to be active throughout your pregnancy and to exercise regularly, but do you know why that is? 

There are many reasons it’s essential to try to get regular exercise while pregnant. According to research, being active can help with managing gestational diabetes and pregnancy weight gain. It may also help with preeclampsia and even prenatal depression. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest women who are cleared to exercise by their doctor, get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobics per week during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Why Stay Active Throughout Pregnancy?

“It’s really important for the mom to stay active as long as she’s having a healthy pregnancy,” says New York City-based Melissa Paris, pre- and postnatal certified trainer and creator of The Fit Fourth, a fitness program to help mothers gain back strength and confidence postpartum. Prenatal exercise can even help with fetal development in utero. Here are some additional benefits of exercising during pregnancy:

Better sleep. Pregnancy insomnia can happen at any stage of the pregnancy for a number of reasons, such as discomfort with various sleeping positions, heartburn, back pain, hormone changes, and getting up to urinate during the night, to name a few. But getting exercise can help you reduce excess energy and help with anxiety that may keep you up at night.

It may help shorten labor. Exercising throughout your pregnancy may help shorten the first stage of labor and overall duration of labor, according to research that followed about 500 pregnant women. Maintaining regular exercise throughout your pregnancy may result in fewer medical interventions—as in, fewer visits to the doctor—and possibly leave you feeling less exhausted during labor.

Your baby’s motor skills will improve. Recent research found that women who did aerobic exercise throughout their pregnancy tended to have babies with higher neuromotor skills (meaning they were more adept at movement) at one month than babies born to moms who didn’t exercise.

Your child might have an easier time managing their weight. Babies born to moms who exercise are likely to be more active themselves. Being active in pregnancy may also benefit your child’s overall metabolic health and reduce their chances of developing childhood obesity.

How to Get Moving

“Pregnancy is not a handicap,” says Paris. “You should try to feel empowered during this time. I like to remind women of everything that they can do while pregnant.” Here are some simple ways to be more active throughout your pregnancy:

  • Block out time to walk a few days a week
  • Make plans to walk or exercise with a friend
  • Take the stairs whenever possible
  • Do strength training with light weights, bands, or your body weight while watching TV shows
  • Find free prenatal workouts on YouTube
  • Join a yoga studio and commit to a weekly practice
  • Set reminders to move every hour with your Fitbit device
  • Find a gym with an indoor pool you can swim laps at, or take a gentle water aerobics class 

Remember to always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially during pregnancy. You can also check out our trimester-by-trimester workout plan here.

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