Importance Of Exercise During Pregnancy

Importance Of Exercise

We all know that exercise is good for us, but you may not know the importance of exercise during pregnancy and how it benefits both mom AND baby. It is well known that exercise improves mental and physical health. But what about exercise during pregnancy? Exercise during pregnancy not only boosts the mother’s mental and physical health, but also has specific benefits for a healthy pregnancy, smooth delivery and faster postpartum recovery. What’s more, when a mother exercises during pregnancy, both mom and baby reap the benefits!

safe pregnancy exercises

Importance Of Exercise During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy imposes a lot of unique physical demands on a woman’s body. Regardless of your level of physical activity before pregnancy, there are many benefits to exercising during pregnancy for both mom and baby.

Benefits For Mom Include:

  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Reduced discomfort
  • Higher incidence of vaginal delivery
  • Lower incidence of: excessive gestational weight gain, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertensive disorders, preterm birth, and Cesarean birth
  • Faster postpartum recovery
  • Lower risk of postpartum depression

Benefits For Baby Include:

Furthermore, the benefits of maternal exercise during pregnancy extend beyond birth. This study discovered that babies whose mothers exercised during pregnancy had better motor skills than those whose mothers did not exercise during pregnancy.

Nutrition also plays a key role in maternal and fetal health during pregnancy. Click here for more information about pregnancy nutrition and supplements.

Study: Exercise During and After Pregnancy Increases Benefits of Breast Milk for Babies

How Often Should I Exercise During Pregnancy?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends regular strength and aerobic training throughout pregnancy for women with uncomplicated pregnancies.

More specifically, the ACOG recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week during pregnancy, aiming for 20-30 minutes each session. These guidelines apply to women of all fitness levels, though the type of exercise and level of intensity will vary. Furthermore, women who exercised vigorously pre-pregnancy can continue to do so during pregnancy.

Need some new workout gear to boost your motivation? Check out my post Pregnancy Fitness Essentials.

best prenatal exercises

Best Exercises For A Healthy Pregnancy (And Beyond)

The following exercises will strengthen your body for a healthy pregnancy, smooth delivery and faster postpartum recovery. These exercises are safe to do in all trimesters for healthy women with low risk pregnancies. Although the importance of exercise during pregnancy is well documented, consult your doctor about what your individual exercise routine should look like during pregnancy.

prenatal squat

Squats

Squats are an excellent exercise for strengthening your entire body, especially your pelvic floor. Many midwives and physicians recommend this exercise specifically to prepare for labor and delivery, and some women even give birth in this position! Try doing 3 (or more) sets of 25 reps 3 days a week, either with or without weight. If you are going to use a weight, it’s best to hold it at your collarbones to help with posture and balance.

prenatal glute bridges

Glute Bridges

Strong glutes are essential for maintaining a strong core throughout your pregnancy. Along these lines, having strong glutes will also help with lower back pain that is common in pregnancy. Glute bridges can be done in the supine position (lying on your back), with or without weight. However, exercises in the supine position can be uncomfortable for some women as pregnancy progresses. In this case, you can perform the exercise with your head and upper back elevated by a bolster/pillow, small exercise ball or bench. Perform 3 sets of 25 reps (or more!), 3-4 times per week.

prenatal bird dog

Bird Dogs

This exercise strengthens the entire core unit and is a great way to ensure your core remains strong without having to do any crunches or planks, which can put unnecessary strain on a pregnant woman’s body. Bird dogs also help with balance, which is often compromised during pregnancy. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps (each side), alternating sides, 3-4 times per week.

prenatal dead lift

Deadlifts

This exercise strengthens the powerhouse muscles of the posterior chain, or back-body. This is your go-to exercise to prevent back pain! Deadlifts can be done with a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbells; however, start with light weight if you are new to this exercise. Try doing 3 sets of 15 reps 2-3 times a week to strengthen the back and core.

prenatal push ups

Push Ups 

Push-ups are known for building upper body strength and muscle tone, but they also play a key role in core strength for a comfortable pregnancy. Plus, you’ll need strong arms to carry around a baby in a few months! Because this exercise becomes increasingly harder as pregnancy progresses, try doing push-ups on your knees, or with your hands elevated on a bench. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10 reps, 3 times per week.

prenatal step up

Step Ups 

Step ups are a full-body exercise that will serve as both strength and cardio! It’s simple—all you need is your body and a step, bench or box. You can also hold dumbbells to make it even more challenging! However, because balance is compromised during pregnancy, make sure the height of your step, box, or bench isn’t too high. Perform 3 sets of 15 step ups on each leg 2-3 times per week.

prenatal monster walk

Monster Walk 

During pregnancy, your hips and glutes can become tight and/or weak. Monster walks help strengthen these muscles to support your changing body and help with lower body discomfort that is common during pregnancy. You can vary the intensity of this exercise by varying the resistance band. When you step laterally, make sure to lead with your hip and knee in alignment, rather than the foot, to engage the muscles properly. Aim for 3 sets of 10 steps (each direction) 2-3 times per week.

prenatal hydrant

Hydrants 

This exercise likewise strengthens the core, including the back and glutes. You can do this exercise with or without a resistance band to vary the intensity. Make sure you keep your hips and shoulders square to the floor, pressing evenly into the floor with both hands. Complete 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg, 2-3 times per week.

prenatal band pull apart

Band Pull Apart 

This exercise is the solution to poor posture and back pain that is common during pregnancy. With a light resistance band, squeeze your shoulder blades together to strengthen the postural muscles of the back. Make sure to engage your core and keep your knees soft so as not to strain your low back. Complete 3 sets of 25 reps, 2-3 times per week.

healthy pregnancy

A Healthy Habit For A Healthy Pregnancy 

I hope you now understand the importance of exercise during pregnancy and how it benefits both mom and baby. There will be times where exercising is the last thing you feel like doing, and that’s okay! Do your best to stay consistent while also listening to your body. Remember that exercise will both alleviate pregnancy discomfort and yield long term benefits. A regular exercise regimen that includes the above exercises will promote a healthy pregnancy, smooth delivery and faster postpartum recovery.

Now that you know the importance of exercise during pregnancy (and beyond), check out my post, 4 Types of Exercise For Your Strongest, Healthiest Body.

How To Build Strength And Lose Weight Without Looking Like A Body Builder!

How To Build Strength

Many people see weightlifting as a way to build huge muscles and achieve a body builder-looking physique.  While this is a motivation for some, weightlifting is something everyone can and should do for optimal fitness. So, here’s how to build strength and lose weight without looking like a body builder! Regardless of your age, fitness level, or health goals as everyone can benefit from lifting weights.

Strength training promotes healthy bone density, skeletal muscle mass, and a healthy body fat percentage.  In this way, weightlifting will help you lose weight, boost your metabolism and give you a lean, toned physique.

WHAT IS STRENGTH TRAINING?

Strength training involves using some form of resistance against your body to increase the size and strength of your skeletal muscles.

Forms of resistance can include:
  • Barbells
  • Dumbbells
  • Machines
  • Resistance bands
  • Your own body weight

Weightlifting increases lean muscle mass, and, of course, builds stronger muscles.

WHY IS STRENGTH TRAINING IMPORTANT FOR WEIGHT LOSS?

Because strength training increases lean muscle mass, it aids in weight loss.  How?  Lean muscle mass helps your body burn calories more efficiently.  It does this by increasing your Basal Metabolic Rate, or resting metabolism.

Two people could weigh the exact same amount, but the person with a higher muscle mass will burn fat and calories more efficiently.  In addition, the person with less body fat and more muscle will look leaner and more toned.

Click here to read, How To Lose Weight – 3 Beliefs That Make Us Fat.

Is Cardio Better than Strength Training for Fat Loss? How Exercise Impacts Weight Loss

THE AFTER BURN EFFECT OF WEIGHTLIFTING

In addition, weightlifting creates an after burn effect.  This means that it revs up your metabolism for up to several hours after your workout is complete.  After a workout, your body has to complete various tasks to recover, repair and build muscle.

One of the ways your body works to recover is via an increase in oxygen consumption.  This is called EPOC, or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.  The duration of EPOC, or the afterburn, depends on both the duration and the intensity of your workout.  It can range from a few hours up to a day or so.

HOW TO BUILD STRENGTH TO BOOST YOUR METABOLISM?

EPOC causes an increase in metabolism, which yields an additional calorie burn.  How many extra calories will you burn?  It depends.  The longer and more intense your workout, the longer the afterburn; therefore, the more calories you’ll burn.

However, you are not going to turn into a calorie-burning machine.  Studies show that even after intense workouts, EPOC yields only a slight increase in metabolism.  This means that most people will not burn an exorbitant amount of calories post-workout (think anywhere from 30-200 calories).

Furthermore, you shouldn’t view EPOC as a license to eat anything and everything you want.  Nutrition is the key to proper recovery, in addition to losing weight and building muscle.  Rather, for optimum results, stick to nutritious, whole foods that are rich in protein.  Things like lean meats, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, and protein powder are all good choices.

Click here to read, How to Start Eating Healthy and Stick to It for more on nutrition.

strength training

HOW TO BUILD STRENGTH AND INCREASE WEIGHT LOSS

The more resistance you use, the harder your body will work.  This stimulates muscle growth, burns calories and boosts your metabolism.  Therefore, try lifting moderate to heavy weights.  You need to challenge your body to change your body!

If you’re a beginner, start out lifting light weights to acclimate yourself to the exercise. Then, gradually increase the load until you feel challenged.

Your body will adapt to the physical stress of lifting weights, and you will plateau if you always lift the same amount.  Therefore, it’s important to gradually increase the amount of weight you lift in order to continue to lose weight and increase your fitness.  Don’t worry about bulking up, either.  This would require frequently lifting heavy weights plus supplementation.

In addition to how much resistance you use, it’s also important to consider the types of strength training exercises you perform.  Full body or compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups will burn the most calories.  These exercises can include;

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Push-ups
  • Deadlifts
  • Cleans
  • Sled pushes

These can also include a combination of two exercises such as;

  • Bicep curl to overhead press
  • Push-up to renegade row

These types of exercises will engage the big muscle groups and increase your heart rate.  Therefore, you will burn a greater amount of calories and boost your metabolism.

HOW MUCH STRENGTH TRAINING IS NECESSARY?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.  Or, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of the two.  Preferably, this would be distributed across the week, for least 4 days of exercise.  These guidelines also recommend at least 2 strength training sessions per week, using the major muscle groups.

Strength training sessions don’t have to take a long time in order to get the benefits.  You can spend as little as 20 minutes lifting weights, or up to an hour or so.  In general, the more intense the workout, the shorter it can be.  Incorporating full body exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups will engage the big muscle groups and therefore burn calories, even in a short amount of time.

lifting weights to lose weight

WHAT ABOUT CARDIO?

Don’t forget about cardio!  While strength training is essential to achieving lean body mass, cardio is also essential.  Cardio burns more overall calories than strength training, which is necessary for weight loss.  However, cardio does not increase lean body mass like strength training does.  Therefore, a combination of strength training and cardio will give you optimal weight loss results.

WHAT’S THE PERFECT COMBINATION?

It varies from person to person.  But in general, one cardio session for every strength training session will get the job done.  Refer back to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans for general exercise recommendations.  For more personalized exercise plans, speak with a healthcare or fitness professional to determine your specific needs.

Including strength and cardio, there are 4 Types of Exercise that will transform your body and improve your fitness.

exercises to lose weight

TIME TO GET STARTED

Weightlifting is a critical component for losing weight and transforming your body.  Regular strength training will yield a lean, toned physique, as well as improve overall confidence.  If you’ve considered beginning a strength training regimen in the past but haven’t yet taken the first steps, now is the time!  Get with a personal trainer or healthcare professional to come up with a plan that suits your needs and goals and properly show you how to build strength safely.

For more weight loss tips, check out my post on 9 Surprising Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight.