With another New Year on the horizon, you may be like millions of other Americans vowing to get into shape. Books, magazines, and workout videos are in plentiful supply if you’re aiming to achieve a fit pregnancy. But what about getting into shape to prepare for your pregnancy? The prenatal period is as important as the nine months that follow and builds the foundation for both a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.
So, how can you ring in the New Year with newfound health and fitness as you prepare to conceive? In this post, we’ll dive into the best fitness tips for prenatal women while examining other health challenges that may arise.
Many prenatal exercises, especially those that emphasize core strength, are similar to pregnancy workouts. The difference is that prenatal ladies have more options than pregnant moms whose burgeoning bellies make certain moves difficult or even dangerous. For example, a prenatal woman may be able to perform yoga inversions (like handstand) safely, while pregnant women need to avoid such acrobatics.
Let’s take a look at three of the most effective (and safe) exercises for women who are trying to conceive.
Topping our prenatal workout list, yoga has been shown to help with virtually every aspect of health, both mental and physical. Some studios even offer classes in fertility yoga, which may increase a woman’s likelihood of getting pregnant since the practice eases stress. But most yoga workouts can be beneficial for prenatal women, with the exceptions of hot yoga and any very strenuous style like Ashtanga.
Yoga and Pilates often go hand in hand, and some gyms even feature PiYo or Yogalates classes that combine the two disciplines. The major difference between yoga and Pilates involves the core-stabilizing muscles of the lower back, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs. While certain yoga poses, such as plank and bridge, may strengthen the core, Pilates multiplies the benefits by 100 with its exclusive emphasis on core conditioning. This doesn’t mean that you need to choose one or the other. Yoga and Pilates are complementary and can be the peanut butter and jelly of a balanced prenatal fitness regimen.
Power Walking for a Healthy Pregnancy
Since jogging may be uncomfortable or even unsafe during pregnancy, incorporating a power-walking routine will help you make the transition to a less vigorous workout. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends moderate-intensity aerobic exercise totaling 150 minutes weekly. You can accomplish this exercise simply by putting one foot in front of the other, no designer workout gear required! Power walking at a pace of 4 miles per hour burns approximately 340 calories; if you walk for 2 hours, you’ll have burned off an entire meal.
The Importance of Exercise for Prenatal and Pregnant Women
Whether you try one workout on our list or all three, the key is to integrate some type of movement program into your daily life. Getting fit prior to becoming pregnant is advantageous, especially because of the changes your body is about to go through. According to physiotherapist Bryce Hastings:
“As your muscles stretch they naturally want to switch off, but if you exercise them it helps the brain keep the muscles activated and working.”
In other words, exercising now is training your body for later when the muscles of your abdomen will need to stay engaged as your baby grows. Building and maintaining core power before pregnancy may even ward off certain postpartum issues, like diastasis recti, which causes a separation of the abdominal muscles. Affecting up to two-thirds of moms-to-be and causing a pregnant appearance to persist after giving birth, diastasis recti is more common in those with weak abdominal muscles. Some women, such as those who are carrying multiple babies or are of petite stature, may be more at risk for developing the issue, but exercise can offer a degree of relief.
How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?
The answer to this question depends on how much you weigh before getting pregnant. The Institute of Medicine suggests that underweight women should gain a minimum of 28 pounds and a maximum of 40 pounds. The woman of “average” weight should gain somewhere in the range of 25 to 35 pounds. Overweight women are advised to only gain between 15 and 25 pounds. Finally, obese women should gain between 11 and 20 pounds. (Calculate your BMI to see which category your weight currently fits into.)
Bottom Line about Prenatal Fitness
The takeaway? Overweight and obese women have less leeway in how much weight they should gain. In fact, achieving an ideal weight during the prenatal period is a good way to improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy. Obesity, on the other hand, can cause various problems for pregnant mothers and the children they are carrying. In several studies, obesity in mothers has been linked to cerebral palsy development in their children. Other studies show that obesity during pregnancy may increase a woman’s risk of developing issues like diabetes and heart disease later in life.
On the other hand, Shape magazine touts the multiple benefits of maintaining a healthy weight with exercise, or “prenatal training,” as the publication calls it. Dr. Nita Landry, cohost of “The Doctors,” adds:
“Having strong abs and a fit cardiovascular system might make labor and delivery easier.”
It may seem like there are a million and one things to worry about when you’re adding to your family. A positive approach to exercise and its numerous benefits can help you feel amazing in every area of your life. There’s no need to train like a triathlete — in fact, such intense exercise could be harmful! A little yoga stretching, a few Pilates moves, and some juicy power walking go a long way.
Before, during, and after pregnancy: it’s always a good time to get fit.