Back in my university days, my physiology study group and I decided to look at the benefits of exercise in pregnant women during their first, second and third trimesters. It wasn’t a ground-breaking study but more of a confirmation that there’s definitely nothing wrong with light, monitored bouts of exercise.
Fast forward 10 years to 2011 and you’ll find that a recent study has proved...yet again, that physical activity can benefit both mum and baby. The study analyzed the heart function of both mother and infant during and after pregnancy. The subjects did a variety of exercise activities such as walking, light running, yoga and weight lifting.
The study found that the women who exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week gave birth to babies who had lower heart rates to those women who didn’t exercise at all. In fact, the difference in heart rates between the two groups was still present by as much as a month after birth.
What does this mean?
Well, the study demonstrated that the babies of those women who exercised, had managed to increase heart rate variability...a good indication that the nervous system’s ability to control heart function was optimized.
A healthy heart from the minute a baby is born is definitely a positive sign in my books!
Besides the baby gaining fantastic health benefits, pregnant mothers say that their exercise has contributed to their overall health and wellbeing by lowering back pain and even enhancing their mood.
Fit mums-to-be may even regain their pre-birth weight faster than other women through eating healthy and getting back into their exercise routine.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that if you’re pregnant you can now start training for that upcoming marathon! Common sense and bit of restraint need to prevail.
Check with your GP about following an exercise program and avoid activities that result in a high sustained heart rate. Walking, light running, yoga, Pilates and especially swimming are great for pregnant women looking to get some exercise for themselves and their ‘bumps’.
NOTE FROM WARREN: Just thought that I would mention that my daughter Selena who recently had her second child has always been physically active and plays a lot of netball. She was active until the last moment before the baby arrived and when she started going into labor she took herself to the hospital at 5.30pm, had a water birth at 7pm, I saw her at 8pm and she was walking around as if nothing had happened. Both Selena and the baby were in great shape, no painkillers no discomfort, just the way a natural birth should be. I am sure her exercise regime played a major part in this result.