We are at the point in the seasons when many of us are longing for those warm summer days when we can go for walks outside while the sun warms our skin, the birds serenade our conversations, and the fresh blades of grass tickle between our toes. Exercising just seems so much easier that way! But living in Minnesota, there is really only a small window of the year that we can rely on comfortable weather for walks outside with a friend or loved one. Now is the time to embrace the cold and snow, and a snowy walk can be just as lovely as a warm sunny walk.
Of course exercise is important for everyone, but it is even more important to make part of your routine during pregnancy. The benefits are endless and exercise is a great way to beat many of the minor complications of pregnancy:
- Improved Circulation: Good circulation supplies the baby with more oxygen and nutrients. Good circulation also helps to reduce the incidence of varicose veins, swelling, cramps and constipation.
- Improved Posture: The softening effects of the hormone relaxin on your ligaments and change in your center of gravity can lead to bad posture and backache. Strengthening your abdominal and back muscles will improve posture and your chances of avoiding backache.
- Better State of Mind: Exercise releases feel-good endorphins into your system. Add to this the physical benefits – better body shape and definition, better complexion – of regular activity and you will certainly feel stronger, happier and more positive about being pregnant.
- Controlled Blood Pressure: Research shows that moderate exercise, such as walking or cycling, can help to prevent pregnancy-related high blood pressure.
- A Better Birth: The better your cardiovascular system (your heart and lungs), the more stamina you will have for huffing and puffing your way through labor. Improved muscular strength will also help you maintain birthing positions such as squatting.
- A Healthier Placenta: Research shows that when pregnant women exercise, the placenta grows almost a third faster in mid-pregnancy and has about 15 per cent more blood vessels and surface area at full term. This is good news for your baby as the placenta is her substitute lungs, kidneys and liver, and transfers oxygen and nutrients from you.
- You’ll Give Your Baby a Head Start: Want a happier, more intelligent baby? Exercise might help. A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology compared the newborn babies of women who exercised no more than once a week with the infants of mothers who ran, swam, used stair climbers or did aerobics three or more times a week for at least 20 minutes. Five days after the birth, the babies born to active moms were more alert and less fussy, suggesting that their mother’s exercise may have given their babies a developmental boost.
Even when we know all of these benefits, it can still be hard to get motivated to get up and go to the gym. The first trick is to make moving and grooving a part of your normal routine, so that your days don’t slip away before you make time to exercise. Some people like to get active first thing in the morning, for others, after work is best. Don’t force yourself into anyone else’s routine, make it comfortable for you.
The second trick is to make it fun and enjoyable, something to look forward to. For some women, it is exercising with other women and making it a social outing that makes it easy to do. Other busy moms love having some alone time, a special time to read any magazine or book they want while ellipticaling with no interruptions!
The third trick is to switch things up. Sure, it is good to get into a routine of exercising, but it is better for your body to change up the actual workouts and activities on a regular basis. Below is a list of a variety of ideas to draw from. Please comment with more ideas!
- Yoga (have you checked out Blooma in Edina and St Paul?)
- Step Aerobics
- Mall Walking
- Stroller Jogging
- Body Pump (or other strength training class)
- Exercising at home with the Hulu.com exercise channel
- Checking out the Netflix Exercise videos
- Weight lifting
- Team sports
- Paddle boating, canoeing, rowing…
- Playstation or Wii exercising games
- Dance dance revolution
- Lazer Tag
- Tennis, racket ball, squash…
- Pillow fights
And of course, don’t forget your Kegles!