The benefits of exercising throughout your pregnancy are plentiful. Not only will it help limit weight gain, but mid-intensity work-outs, such as Pilates, have been shown to ease symptoms of pregnancy (i.e. back pain, morning sickness, fatigue), help shorten the labor, and reduce the time it takes to get your body to bounce back after you’ve given birth. Also, the strengthening and functional exercises will help prepare you for the lifting, playing, and running around you’ll be doing once you have a newborn in the house.
Many women also find the breathing techniques of Pilates to be helpful in preparing for labor. The devotion to scheduled exercise time can be great for keeping a positive outlook during the pregnancy and a healthy mindset during a period of tremendous changes to your body.
There is a lot of contradictory information floating around about exercising while you are pregnant. The reason for this is that in the not so far past, doctors treated pregnancy as if it were an “illness.” What recent research is showing however, is that moderate exercise will help make the pregnancy easier. The body is incredible. It has an amazing ability to adjust to all the new changes taking place. While resting is important to remain healthy, exercising decreases the feeling of exhaustion and actually helps the placenta grow more efficiently. The more efficient the placenta, the better the baby is able to absorb nutrients and oxygen from the mother.
If you listen to your body, I believe it will give you signals. This is not a time to push your boundaries. Start small, especially if you are a beginner to exercise. If you are professional or recreational athlete you can continue, within reason, your normal routine but talk to your doctor or an exercise specialist for modifications and warning signs to look out for.
If you plan on working out on your own, remember to keep hydrated, fueled (eat a small snack before and after exercise) and always warm-up for about five minutes before you really get going. Due to changes in the vascular system, it is important to give your body a fair warning that you are beginning a workout. Save high intensity workouts for after the baby has been delivered. Stay in a range of 5-8 on the perceived exertion scale which means in the highest intensity you are slightly tired but you can speak a full sentence while you are exercising. If for any reason you feel light-headed, fatigued, or have abdominal area cramping stop immediately and talk to your health care professional.
It is true that the body is under a lot of stress and many changes take place in a relatively short amount of time. However, keeping the mother’s body active and healthy is incredibly important for a healthy labor and a healthy baby. Think about it in terms of preparing your body for labor and delivery, an intense biological marathon. It is especially important to do a lot of core/abdominal strengthening in the first trimester before the muscles begin stretching. It is harder for them to continue to strengthen after that point and you are going to need them for the final pushing.
Pilates is a perfect compliment to any prenatal aerobic regimen. It will primarily work on building that core strength as well as toning the arms, legs and back. The functionality of the exercises will be beneficial to all the bending, reaching, lifting and squatting you will be doing with your new bundle of joy. To keep sessions interesting, I like to incorporate a couple different props such as an exercise ball, resistance bands and foam rollers to keep the movements flowing and to keep you safe.