The idea of pregnant women as fragile beings has been so ingrained in our minds that when pictures of 35-year-old Lea-Ann Ellison lifting weights while eight months pregnant surfaced, they immediately went viral, starting debates concerning fitness and pregnancy everywhere from mommy blogs to the New York Times.
Ellison’s exercise may be extreme — and may not be for everyone — but the image of the delicate mommy-to-be is rapidly transforming to that of a healthy, active woman. In fact, the Center for Disease Control recommends 2.5 hours of “moderate-intense aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, during and after … pregnancy” per week, and mounting scientific evidence shows just how important exercise is to a pregnant woman’s health.
A 2011 review published by the Journal of Science Medicine in Sport interpreted studies on pregnant women and physical activity and found that pregnant women who exercise are less likely to experience serious conditions, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, while news from Psychology and Health reveals that prenatal exercise may improve mood and reduce anxiety and fatigue.
Prenatal exercise also leads to better births and health for mother and child. A recent study conducted in Spain and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows a decrease in high birth weights and the need for caesarean births in women who engaged in a combination of strength training, cardio and flexibility exercises. Researchers from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences discovered that women who exercised 30 minutes a day, three days a week had babies in utero with lower heart rates in the weeks leading up to birth; even better, those babies continued to demonstrate signs of a healthy heart a month after they were born, indicating that the road to a healthy life begins in the womb.
Always consult a medical professional before beginning or modifying a fitness regimen. This is particularly important if you have health issues, such as high blood pressure, a heart condition or a history of pregnancy complications. But even if you are in perfect health, working with your doctor is key to finding the right plan to ensure that you and your baby stay healthy and strong for years to come!