Expectant parents who want their children to have the best of everything should accord top priority to exercise before delivery. Studies have proved exercise is beneficial not only to the pregnant women, but also to the developing child.
It is generally accepted that women can better approach childbirth with calm and confidence if her muscles are in good tone and she has learnt how to control, if she is taught to relax herself at will and if she has taken nutritional and other measures to maintain general good health.
The human body is so constructed that in order to remain healthy it must be exercised regularly and correctly. According to American college of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG), exercise during pregnancy is encouraged.
Benefits of exercise for the mom.
Women who engage in regular, moderate exercise for at least 20 minutes, 3-5 days a week throughout their pregnancies:
1. Tend to have shorter and less complicated labours;
2. Have more energy during pregnancy and recover faster following delivery;
3. Return to their pre – pregnancy weight sooner than less active women;
4. Gain less weight during pregnancy;
5. Tend to experience an improved body image, enhanced self esteem and a general sense of well being;
6. Experience less tension, anxiety and fatigue;
7. Experience a decrease in the common discomforts of pregnancy;
8. Maintain cardiovascular fitness; and
9. Increase muscular strength.
Exercise programs that benefit pregnant women have these essential components:
1. Cardiovascular (endurance) exercise- Activities such as walking, aerobics and jogging provide the most important benefits of exercise during pregnancy. Pregnant women should do endurance exercise for 30 minutes 3-5 times per week.
2. Resistance training - Maintaining or increasing muscular strength allows the muscles to support the “Loosened ” joints and prevent injury, relieve discomfort, and prepare new moms for strenuous life with a newborn. Strength training can be done 2-3 times per week on alternating days.
3. Stretching- Stretching exercise increase increase range of motion and flexibility . Pregnant women move more easily, have fewer aches and pains with pregnancy avoid injury and typically have shorter labours and deliveries. Stretching exercises are encouraged daily.
Benefits of Exercise for the baby
James F Clapp, M.D. and his associates have studied both short – term and long – term effects of exercise on developing babies. When a pregnant women exercises, blood is temporarily shunted away from her abdomen, hence the uterus. The foetal heart rate temporarily decreases in response to the decreased uterine blood flow. After the mother finishes exercising , the foetal increases before it returns to its regular baseline rate as uterine blood flow normalizes. This adaptation, Clapp discovered, helps developing babies better endure the stresses experienced during labour and delivery, as well as the transition to life outside the womb.
The newborn tend to be alert and less startled by their environment. They also readily settle themselves, requiring less comforting. Long term, babies experience no stunting of growth or development.
Based upon Clapp’s research finding it is now safe to say that regular exercise, continued throughout the pregnancy, is not only good for the mothers, but also good for the babies.