Top Ten Benefits of Exercise during Pregnancy

Nanya • Pregnant with #2 after 10 years.
Top Ten Benefits of Pregnancy ExerciseIf your favorite (make that only) workout equipment is the pregnancy mood swing, stop for a moment to consider how a slightly more ambitious program will help in lots of ways.Pregnancy comes with its share of annoying complaints. But the more you exercise during pregnancy, the less you'll find to complain about. There's a case to be made for fitness for everyone, but in moms-to-be specifically, pregnancy exercise can: Fight pregnancy fatigue. Low-level tiredness plagues many women during the first trimester, then again late in the third trimester. It seems paradoxical, but sometimes getting too much rest can actually make you feel more pooped. And while you should never push yourself too hard when you're pregnant — and especially when you're feeling fatigued — a little nudge can make a big difference in your pregnancy energy level. So take baby steps — go for an easy walk or pop in a pregnancy exercise video. You'll be surprised at how peppy you feel afterward.

Improve your sleep during pregnancy. While many pregnant women report that they have a harder time falling asleep (not to mention staying asleep with all the bathroom interruptions), those who exercise consistently (as long as it's not near bedtime, which can be too energizing) say the quality of their sleep is better and that they wake up feeling more rested.

Conquer pregnancy constipation.An active body encourages active bowels. Some women swear by a brisk 30-minute walk to keep them regular, others say even a ten-minute stroll helps get things going.

Do pregnancy back exercises.  Back pain affects half of all pregnant women — and your best defense is a strong set of abs. Do simple pregnancy-safe exercises to strengthen your abs — which will give your back the back-up it needs. (See Pregnancy Workouts for exercises that work for you.) But don't stop there. Even exercise that's not directly targeting the tummy — a short walk to the post office — can also relieve pain and pressure.

Don't worry, be happy. Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that give a natural high — improving your mood, diminishing feelings of worry and anxiety.

Do pregnancy stretches. It's not a stretch — stretching does your body good, and you don't even have to break a sweat. This is especially true if you've been troubled by muscle cramps — particularly in your leg. Stretching out (flexing your toes up instead of pointing down) can help you uncover little pockets of tension, warding off cramps and sore muscles. Stretch after your exercise routine, but also stretch at your desk (especially if you've been sitting or standing for a long time), in the car or airplane, and always before bed (particularly if nocturnal leg cramps have been cramping your sleeping style).

Guard against gestational diabetes. Exercise may prevent this common problem, and the American Diabetes Association recommends exercise as a helpful therapy for women who are at risk. If that's you, don't be surprised if your practitioner is even more gung ho about prescribing a workout routine.

Make a healthy baby. Babies of moms who exercise during pregnancy are born at healthier weights, are better able to weather labor and delivery (they are less stressed by it), and recover from the stresses of birth more quickly.

Have an easier labor (possibly).While exercise during pregnancy can't guarantee that you'll sail through childbirth, moms who exercise tend to have shorter labors and are less likely to need medical interventions during labor (including C-sections).

Speed your postpartum recovery. The more you increase your pregnancy fitness, the faster you'll recover physically after childbirth, the more fit you'll be after delivery — and the sooner you'll be zipping up those prepregnancy jeans again.