I recently had the opportunity to talk to prenatal fitness and lifestyle expert Amy Griffith about the myths surrounding prenatal fitness and get some tips on how expectant moms can be healthier, before, during and after pregnancy.
What are some myths regarding prenatal exercise and fitness?
Just because you haven’t exercised before, doesn’t mean you can’t start now. Even activity as simple as walking is hugely beneficial to a pregnant woman. She can even run, bike, dance and strength train as long as it still feels safe for her body. Whatever modality of exercise she decides to engage in, it is always of utmost importance that she listen to her body and recognize individual limitations.
Yes, you can do “abs.” Exercising abs and the entire core group of muscles will help prevent back and posture problems caused by the growing stomach, will make pushing more effective pushing during labor, and will help the new mother recover quicker. For example, a pregnant mother in her second and third trimester will mainly be working her transverse abdominus, which wrap from front to back like a corset, and also the obliques. Keeping these muscles toned and active will help them to return to their pre-pregnancy state far sooner. Abdominal exercises during pregnancy can also reduce the risk of abdominal separation, which can lead to other physical ailments. Beforehand, be sure to research the safest types of abdominal exercise for the various trimesters and execute with proper form.
There’s more to yoga than you may know. Prenatal yoga is a very safe form of exercise. Executed with the use of props to support the pregnant woman as baby grows, the mother can maintain the standard yoga poses but in a modified way. Prenatal yoga also teaches the powerful connection of breath and movement, encouraging the woman to let go of tension trigger points in her body.
Cardio-is-a-okay. The old theory of not allowing your heart rate to exceed 140 beats per minute is no longer supported by the medical community. There is about a 50% increase in blood flow when a women is pregnant, so the heart works much harder to deliver all of these nutrients throughout the body and especially the placenta. While a pregnant woman who is exercising may tire out more quickly, there is no evidence that such exertion is harmful to her baby. The general rule of thumb is if a pregnant woman can continue to carry on a conversation while performing an exercise routine, then she is in a cardiovascular safe zone.
What are the benefits of exercise, yoga and meditation during pregnancy? There are lots of them! And as someone who did a home birth, I know that the meditation and breathing exercises were of particular assistance to me.
Griffith shared these benefits with me:
- Some research has indicated that prenatal fitness may benefit the child’s lifelong health.
- Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy is tied to preventing childhood obesity.
- Remaining active can also encourage the baby to move into proper position for birth.
- Exercise not only has countless physical benefits with keeping muscles toned, maintaining healthy body fat levels, and improving cardiovascular health among them, but it also releases endorphins that can help boost mood, improve self-esteem, reduce anxiety and depression, decrease stress, alleviate pain and improve sleep.
- Keeping these muscles toned and active will help them to return to their pre-pregnancy state far sooner. Abdominal exercises during pregnancy can also reduce the risk of abdominal separation, which can lead to other physical ailments. Beforehand, be sure to research the safest types of abdominal exercise for the various trimesters and execute with proper form.
Labor and delivery are certainly a physical experience, but many women say it is 90% mental. Allowing oneself to move inward and “step out of your own way” gives the body permission to do exactly what it knows how to do: birth baby! Meditation enables the mom-to-be to mentally surrender while exercise gives her physical strength and confidence.
Amy Griffith—star of her own “Active Prenatal Yoga” Workout DVD for expectant mothers, is one of America’s leading prenatal fitness and lifestyle experts. She provides free advice, including eBook and video content, to her Army of followers and fans online at www.AmyGriffithWorkout.com.
Disclaimer: *The above should not be construed as medical advice. Individuals should consult with their own physicians before starting any fitness or exercise regime.