Physical Activity During And After Pregnancy

Physical activity works smoothly. Some benefits are immediate, others will be felt later. Thus, the regular practice of physical activity:

• helps sleep better

• increases energy

• tones muscles

• decreases stress

• promotes better digestion

• helps weight control

• improves blood circulation

• lowers blood pressure

• strengthens bones and prevents osteoporosis.

Anyone can significantly improve their health if they integrate physical activity into their daily lives. By doing about 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day or so, a person can enjoy a significant amount of health benefits.

Physical activity does not have to be done for 30 consecutive minutes or be done strenuously to be effective. It is the total amount of energy expended that counts. Thus, you get the same health benefits whether you walk for thirty minutes or do three ten-minute sessions per day.

Physical activity and its benefits before, during, and after pregnancy

Many times, pregnancy gives us the energy to start an exercise or fitness program. We must therefore seize this opportunity to adopt and maintain good lifestyle habits.

Internationally recognized medical associations such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)recommend that pregnant women with normal pregnancies exercise at moderate intensity. In particular, aerobic exercises (which cause slight shortness of breath) promote better oxygenation of the placenta and reduce the risk of swelling and varicose veins during pregnancy. Muscle exercises help build or maintain strength in major muscle groups (abdominals, backs, glutes, etc.).

Good abdominal muscles certainly allow for effective pushing when it is time to deliver the baby. Reinforced back muscles provide good support for the trunk and compensate for the increased weight of the uterus and breasts. Also, good musculature promotes better posture and helps prevent lower back pain commonly associated with pregnancy. The muscles of the buttocks as well as those of the thighs and arms should not be neglected since they are associated with all the gestures of an active life.

It is utopian to believe that a woman in good physical condition will give birth more easily. Too many factors come into play: the size of the baby, the morphology of the mother (eg: the width of the pelvis), the elasticity of the tissues, the number of hours of labor, etc. However, a woman in good physical condition can cope better with the excess weight associated with pregnancy and will also recover more quickly after childbirth. 

The ability to relax and loosen up remains very important in preparing for childbirth. Relaxation exercises not only promote good breathing control, but they also increase oxygenation to the fetus. Also, the visualization of childbirth, makes it possible to anticipate its reaction and to adjust the attitudes to be developed.

It is important to consider your lifestyle habits when choosing activities. Progress will be slower for the sedentary woman than for the woman already active before pregnancy. You should choose non-competitive, non-contact activities where the intensity required should be rated, somewhat difficult. When you’re putting in the physical effort and feeling good, you can increase it or repeat it. The shortness of breath should never be enough to prevent you from having a conversation. Whether you are starting or continuing a physical activity program, walking, swimming, and floor exercises are great activities for you.

Walk regularly and gradually build-up

To improve your health and that of your baby, walking is best done every day. It will quickly become a privileged moment to replenish your energy. Make a schedule that works for you. First, discover your neighborhood or the surroundings of your workplace. This is where, most of the time, you will be able to integrate exercise into your daily life.

Don’t like to walk alone? So invite a friend or your partner to walk with you. You can also join a walking club. Check with your municipality’s recreation department to find out if there is one near you. Walking is a pleasant exercise that can be done in all seasons. You just need to dress well in cold weather.

Suggested walking program

Week 1: 10 minutes Normal speed

Week 2: 12 minutes 5 min. slowly, 5 min. faster, 2 min. slowly

Week 3: minutes 5 min. slowly, 8 min. faster, 2 min. slowly

Week 4: 18 minutes 5 mins. slowly, 8 min. faster, 5 min. slowly

Week 5: 20 minutes 5 min. slowly, 10 min. faster, 5 min. slowly

Week 6: 25 minutes 5 mins. slowly, 15 min. faster, 5 min. slowly

Week 7: 30 minutes 5 min. slowly, 20 min. faster, 5 min. slowly

Week 8 .9 .10  : 40 minutes 5 min. slowly, 30 min. faster, 5 min. slowly

This program can be changed. It should be pleasant and well-integrated into your schedule.

Aquagym or swimming

Advantages:

 the weight of the body is reduced;

 water has a relaxing effect;

 the body (especially the joints) is subjected to less strain and tension;

 the aquatic environment reduces the risk of falls due to loss of balance.

Since a pregnant woman’s buoyancy increases, usually as the pregnancy progresses, for some, this period can be a great time to learn to swim. For others, it will be an opportunity to practice what they already know.

Aqua gym

You don’t have to be able to swim to exercise. Practiced in groups, aqua gym allows participants to exchange views and develop links with women who are also experiencing pregnancy.

Some exercises that do well

To integrate physical activity into everyday life, three-floor exercises to do every day. You can get into the habit of doing them in bed, before getting up if you want. These daily exercises help to relieve pain in the lower back and pain caused by the sciatic nerve.

Lumbar region stretch (lower back) – While lying on your back with your knees bent:

 pull one knee towards your chest and hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds;

 repeat with the other leg. Leave your head on the ground or lift it slightly.

Tilting the pelvis

While lying on your back, knees bent:

 contract your abdominal muscles so that your back is flat on the floor;

 hold the position for five seconds;

 release and repeat several times;

 repeat the same exercise while standing or in a sitting position.

Round back or cat exercise

In a

crawling position: • take a deep breath, contract the abdominal and gluteal muscles by bending your back (like a cat) and leaving the neck relaxed;

 release, exhale and return to the initial position;

 breathe in when you bend your back and breathe out when you relax.

Exercising after childbirth

There are the same benefits of physical activity after childbirth as during pregnancy. Besides the physical benefits, there are also many psychological benefits. The time you devote to physical activity becomes a special moment for you and allows you to replenish your energy. Also, regular physical activity reduces the side effects of the physical and aesthetic changes caused by pregnancy and childbirth, such as:

 relaxation of the muscles of the back, stomach, perineum, and breasts;

 weak joints;

 episiotomy;

 hormonal changes;

weight gain.

Physical activity helps reduce general fatigue caused by lack of sleep, baby’s demands, family organization, and the stress of new responsibilities. By moving regularly, you will feel good about yourself, and you will maintain a positive image of yourself. Finally, exercising predisposes to the acquisition of good family habits that should be maintained, with the arrival of children. A great gift for the whole family!

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