35 Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy

​Did you know that if you're pregnant, you're not only allowed to exercise, but that it's actually encouraged you do so, for the health of both you and your baby? 

With that in mind, and to encourage more women to move around a bit during their pregnancy, we've compiled this list of 35 amazing benefits of exercising while pregnant.

The American College of Obstetricians suggests women who are pregnant exercise a minimum of 20-30 minutes a day for maximum benefits (20).

Use this guide to motivate you to get started today.​

Physical Benefits of Exercising While Pregnant


#1. Expectant mothers who exercise are less likely to have unplanned c-sections

More and more mothers are being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which can lead to your baby growing too large. In this case, your baby may be too hard to deliver, requiring a cesarean delivery (11). Moms who exercise during their pregnancy are less like to have unplanned c-sections (12).

#2. Running while pregnant is a great way to boost your heart

If you’re fit and your baby is healthy, it’s perfectly okay for you to continue your normal routine up until your final trimester—it's a great way to boost your heart (2, 5). Expectant mothers who are new to running should start slower and build up to running. Don’t overdo it too quickly, and be sure always to listen to what your body is telling you.

#3. Weight training during your first trimester will help prepare your body for the added weight of your baby

Studies from the Journal of Physical Activity and Health reports low to moderate training twice a week is safe and effective for pregnant women—and weight training during your first trimester can help prepare your body for your baby's added weight (6).

#4. During your first trimester, you can try riding a bike for a healthy way to increase your heart rate

Once you enter your second trimester, your balance may not be what it used to be. At this time you may want to consider switching your bike out with a stationary bicycle, which is a healthy way to increase your heart rate (9).

#5. Doing Pilates can help you with balance issues associated with pregnancy

Pilates focuses on building core muscles and challenging your strength and balance. When you become pregnant, your body begins to produce higher levels of relaxin, which softens the ligaments in your pelvis to make room for your growing baby (7).

This relaxin circulates throughout your entire body, not just your pelvis which can lead to wobbly hips, knees, and ankles. Over time you will learn what your body is capable of and how to control your balance (6).

#6. Activities such as yoga can help reduce blood pressure

High blood pressure is common in pregnant women and even up to 20 weeks after delivery. High blood pressure can decrease the blood flow to the placenta (8), and your baby may receive less oxygen and fewer nutrients if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure. Doing a little yoga during your pregnancy can help to reduce your blood pressure (6).

#7. Exercising throughout your pregnancy can lead to a faster, easier labor

Strengthening your abdominal area, core, and pelvic floor can aid in speeding up both labor and delivery (12). The average first-time mom has a labor of 12-14 hours (3)—cutting this time down will lead to a happier, healthier mother and child.

#8. Exercising during pregnancy can help tame your lower-back pain

Pregnancy related back pain is a common complaint in pregnant women. The added strain caused by your baby bump can have a negative impact on your quality of life.

It's estimated that 50 percent of women will suffer from lower back pain due to pregnancy. Of those women, one-third will experience severe pain (13).

Doing low-impact weight training or stretching exercises such as yoga can significantly help lessen your pain (1).

#9. Regular exercise can prevent pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes

If untreated, gestational diabetes can deliver excessive sugar to your baby’s bloodstream, which can cause potentially serious complications for both you and your unborn child (12).

Doing regular exercise during your pregnancy can help prevent this (11).

#10. Pregnant women who exercise have improved circulation and blood flow

You can increase your circulation and blood flow by doing consistent exercise (14).

This will allow your baby to receive nutrients it needs more efficiently. Better circulation also helps prevent constipation, varicose veins, and leg cramps.

#11. Women who exercise often will feel less pain from symptoms of pregnancy

By strengthening your muscles, you are essentially giving your body the ability to cope with aches and pains associated with being pregnant (17). 

To relieve back pain, try exercises that involve stretching such as yoga. If you are suffering from abdominal pain, try swimming.

#12. You'll notice less swelling of your legs and ankles once you start exercising

Swelling of the legs is common in pregnant women, but increasing your circulation will help calm this swelling. Walking helps increase this circulation by pushing excess fluid in your legs through blood valves and back to the heart (18).

Check out this YouTube video for some great ways to start incorporating exercise into your pregnancy.

Emotional Benefits of Exercising While Pregnant


#13. Light to moderate exercise can give you a better self-image

A lot of women struggle with the changes to their body goes through while they're pregnant, but exercise can help you feel more comfortable by making you feel more in control (14).

#14. Regular exercise can help curb mood swings

Exercise releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body, making you feel good (9).

Start with 10 minutes of light exercise a day and add more based on how you feel, both physically and mentally.

#15. Doing daily exercises will help boost your energy levels

After exercising, you will begin to feel more motivated to do other activities as well, improving your mood.

Staying active also keeps you from becoming restless and anxious (16, 17).

#16. Exercise can give you an overwhelming sense of accomplishment while pregnant

The things you can do while you're pregnant are sometimes limited, but exercising during pregnancy doesn’t have to be one of those things.

Enjoy the satisfaction of completing a task such as a yoga class or a morning jog.

#17. Light exercise throughout the day can help combat fatigue and give you a better night’s rest

Even if you never exercised previous to your pregnancy, you may want to consider taking a short walk or a relaxing swim on a semi-regular basis—this can help you fight fatigue and get a better night's sleep (4).

#18. You'll learn proper breathing techniques that can help during your delivery

Exercises such as yoga can help you learn the breathing rhythms that are essential in keeping you calm and focused while giving birth (6).

#19. You'll feel better about going into childbirth

First-time mothers may question their ability to give birth, but when you exercise, you are setting yourself up for success.

Childbirth will be easier for you when your body is prepared. This knowledge will give you confidence and relieve some stress you may be feeling.

#20. Exercising during pregnancy can take your mind off of things

Being pregnant can definitely be stressful, but taking the time to exercise will give you the much needed relief to clear your head of all the what ifs.

Exercising Benefits for Both You and Baby


#21. Regular exercise can increase your baby’s brain function

Studies have indicated that babies of mice who exercised daily were less prone to neurodegeneration, which are changes in the brain that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease (11).

#22. Expectant mothers who exercise tend to keep up the habit after their babies are born

If you're still exercising after you've given birth, you'll have a lot more energy to be active with your little one once they arrive.

#23. Studies show that mothers who exercise produce children that are leaner than mothers who don’t

And even though the baby is thinner, its organ size and head circumference remain the same healthy standard doctors look for when delivering children (17).

#24. Baby will be less likely to incur complications such as cerebral palsy

Exercising during pregnancy increases the blood flow to your child. And without a good flow, your baby could be at risk for oxygen deprivation from birth (21).

#25. Babies of mothers who exercise regularly are more likely to have a healthier heart

A 2014 study showed that infants born to mothers who participated in regular exercise were more likely to have a healthy fetal heart rate variability (13) (15).

#26. You're less inclined to have an overweight child

Babies who are born with excess fat are more likely to be overweight throughout their early childhood (19), and babies born 20% or more over the recommended weight are at risk of becoming obese adults.

#27. You're more likely to carry your baby to full term

Exercising during your pregnancy can help prevent a premature birth, which can lead to many complications for baby, such as immature lungs, infections, inability to maintain body heat, and pneumonia (22).

#28. Babies born to mothers who exercise semi-regularly are less at risk for learning disabilities

Placental insufficiency can lead to a variety of learning issues, if not caught early on in your pregnancy (21).

#28. Babies born to mothers who exercise semi-regularly are less at risk for learning disabilities

Placental insufficiency can lead to a variety of learning issues, if not caught early on in your pregnancy (21).

Post-Delivery Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy


#29. Exercise can help promote better sleeping habits

Did you know that exercising during your pregnancy can help you sleep better once baby comes along? (23). And as a new mother, you are going to need all the quality sleep you can get!

#30. Women who exercise during and after pregnancy are less likely to have postpartum depression

The endorphins released from exercise can help you feel relaxed (9). Moderate exercise has been prescribed for patients with mild to moderate depression (10). 

Exercising as a social event can create a fun atmosphere that will boost your mood even further. Try exercising with a friend or a group.

#31. Exercise can make it easier to drop weight once you have your baby

Studies have shown that women who gain more than the recommended 25-35 pounds throughout their pregnancy will have a harder time losing that weight (14).

#32. Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine will ultimately give your child a positive example for years to come

Exercise at an early age can boost your child’s brain function (24).

#33. Abdominal workouts can help lead to a faster recovery

After the first trimester, stick to exercises that don’t require you to be on your back.

Some great abdominal exercises include standing pelvic tilts, seated belly tightening, along with any other core exercises you can complete seated (2).

#34. Regular exercise while pregnant will help you bounce back quicker from pregnancy

Completing the American College of Obstetricians guide of 20-30 minutes of exercise daily can assist in preparing you for bouncing back from your postpartum period (20).

#35. You'll be more likely to continue your exercise once you child is born

Starting healthy habits can keep you lean and strong through your lifetime giving you more memories with your child.

Final Thoughts

​Hopefully, this list of 35 benefits of exercising during pregnancy gave you the motivation you needed to start exercising today. Whether you decide to go on an afternoon walk, dance your heart out to your favorite tunes, or join a prenatal yoga class, both you and your baby will benefit greatly.

If you found this guide helpful, please share it with your family and friends. It may just give them the extra push they need to get off the sofa. Don’t forget to comment with your favorite ways to exercise while pregnant!

Sources:

1 http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/exercise-during-pregnancy-myth-vs-fact#1
2 http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/exercise-during-pregnancy-myth-vs-fact#2
3 http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/normal-labor-and-delivery-process#1
4 http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/exercise-during-pregnancy-myth-vs-fact#3
5 http://www.babycenter.com/0_running-during-pregnancy_7877.bc
6 http://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/first-trimester-exercise-fitness
7 http://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/5-ways-pregnancy-affects-your-balance
8 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20046098
9 http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/fitness/exercise-during-pregnancy/
10 http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression
11 http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/exercise-benefits
12 http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/gestational-diabetes/
13 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24287100
14 http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/effects-of-exercise-on-pregnancy/
15 http://www.livescience.com/13628-exercise-pregnancy-baby-heart-benefits-cardiovascular-disease.html
16 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-exercise/art-20046896
17 http://www.babycenter.com/0_eight-great-benefits-of-pregnancy-exercise_7864.bc
18 http://www.livestrong.com/article/370099-exercises-to-reduce-leg-swelling/
19 http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20051013/do-bigger-babies-become-fatter-adults#1
20 http://www.babycenter.com/0_the-best-kinds-of-exercise-for-pregnancy_7880.bc
21 http://www.healthline.com/health/placental-insufficiency
22 http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/premature-birth-complications/
23 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/exercise-after-pregnancy/art-20044596
24 http://www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/move/kid-brain-exercise

Kate Trout
 

Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place to learn all about practical parenting tips, baby care tricks, and healthy-living hacks for new and expecting moms.

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