Many benefits to exercise during pregnancy
By VERDEL BISHOP Tuesday, May 29 2012
For some women, exercising is hard enough on a normal basis, so when pregnant, an exercise regime may really be the last thing on her mind.
Efforts to keep fit while pregnant can be gruelling; but there are countless benefits for both mother and baby which can be rewarding.
According to Maurisa Gibson of MG Sport and Exercise Science Consultancy, the interaction of exercise and pregnancy records many benefits which include improved cardiovascular and muscular fitness; prevention and relief of back pain and improved posture; decreased risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia/pregnancy-induced hypertension; and prevention of excessive weight gain, as well as a decrease in anxiety, lower postnatal distress and improved postpartum depression scores.
Gibson, a Sport and Exercise Scientist/Physiologist said the perception of exercise as it relates to pregnancy is now evolving. Women who choose to remain inactive prior or during pregnancy she said, could experience increased risk of gestational diabetes, the risk of excessive maternal weight gain, greater occurrence of pregnancy discomforts, including leg cramps, insomnia, heartburn, edema, ligament pain and haemorrhoids.
She emphasised that standard exercise testing and prescription should be performed by a certified fitness specialist prior to the execution of the programme to ensure a tailored exercise regime for the safety of both mother and foetus.
“Pregnancy and exercise are both extremely complex biological processes that in turn alter metabolic, circulatory, and cardiopulmonary regulatory functions. It is for this reason that moderate intensity exercise during low risk pregnancy is suggested as it does not lead to adverse outcomes for the fetus or mother, but only improves overall maternal fitness and wellbeing.
She explained, “During pregnancy, the female body is subjected to a number of physiologic and metabolic changes. These changes occur in order to distribute oxygen and nutrients to the foetus and to maintain an adequate supply of the oxygen and nutrients.
“Traditionally, pregnant women were advised not to undertake exercise, while active women were told to reduce significantly habitual levels of exercise exertion and inactive women to refrain from initiating a strenuous exercise programme. This perception of exercise as it relates to pregnancy is now evolving.
Women who have been inactive before pregnancy or who have a medical condition should receive clearance from their physician before beginning an exercise programme.
Gibson said it is recommended healthy pregnant women without exercise contraindications should be encouraged to partake in routine physical activity throughout gestation. “As a matter of fact, The American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM) endorses guidelines regarding exercise in pregnancy and the postpartum period set forth by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Joint Committee of the society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP),” she said.
“It is very important for pregnant women to note that in order to improve the maternal metabolic and cardiopulmonary systems without any direct effect on foetal wellbeing, their fitness programme must be properly designed as the frequency, intensity, duration and type of exercise may significantly vary. Apart from this, there is the recommended exercise prescription for pregnant women which needs to be monitored and adjusted according to the woman’s symptoms, discomforts and abilities during pregnancy and be aware of the contraindications for exercising during pregnancy,” Gibson explained.
She advises that during gestation, a woman should exercise at least three to seven days a week with moderate intensity at least 15 minutes per day and gradually increasing to at least 30 minutes per day, accumulating a total of 150 minutes per week. She explained that women should opt for activities that facilitate aerobic fitness like walking, cycling and swimming, as well as exercise for muscle strengthening and forms of resistance training.
“Irrespective of the variety of choices you are always advised to choose activities that minimise the risk of loss of balance especially as pregnancy progresses, as there could be risks of trauma to joints and ligaments as well as to the foetus,” Gibson said. She advises exercise in an aquatic environment and a great option.
“An excellent option, for those active and considering to be active, is performing exercise in an aquatic environment as the water’s buoyancy help support the gravid uterus and may provide greater benefits by decreasing joint stress, improving mobility, enhancing thermoregulation and increasing level of comfort,” she said.
Gibson, who owns and manages MG Sport and Exercise Science Consultancy is passionate and eager to make an indelible mark on society through sport. As a sport and exercise scientist/physiologist, her focus is to conduct research and performance testing and analysis with athletes providing professional guidance and counsel to coaches, athletes and others interested in athletics, sport training and human adaptability to acute and chronic exercise.
Additionally, her services include evaluating the medical and fitness needs of referred patients to later design customised exercise programs that will promote individual goals.
This includes pregnant women, overweight and obese individuals and other clinically controlled diseases. Her profession allows her to work in university, athletic training, hospital and commercial settings.
Gibson is also a Professional Member and Certified Health Fitness Specialist (HFS) with the American College of Sport Medicine (ACSM).
As this country observes Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM) im May, Gibson has teamed up with Best Start, founders of PAM in this country, to connect mothers and fathers with quality information and service on health matters.