Ester Marsh: The benefits of exercising while you’re pregnant

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 15, 2021

So, exciting news! I will be oma to another grandchild, which is due the middle of January. It’s my oldest daughter Frankie again, and she has one daughter and one stepson.

I am very proud of her because (like her mommy) she keeps active and exercises even being pregnant.

So what is recommended for exercises while pregnant?

First you need to ask is your OB/GYN. Fortunately,  my dear friend and doctor, Dr Jesse Blumenthal from Novant Health Carolina Women’s Health associates, has been so kind as to give me some information, including her opinion, about this subject. I’ll include my experience with my own three pregnancies and exercise. But before you do anything, you should talk to your doctor first.

What you don’t want to do is after you find out that you are pregnant, then start a vigorous exercise program. Like Dr. Blumenthal says: being pregnant is not the time to train for a marathon.

When you haven’t exercised at all, I would stick with a gentle walking program, water exercise or moderate low impact aerobic classes about 30 minutes per day, most days of the week. (Again, make sure that it is OK with your OB/GYN).

Now if you have exercised, the most important thing is to listen to your body. Your body will tell you when you are overdoing it.

My personal story is that in my first pregnancy I was teaching step aerobics while my contractions were five minutes apart! No, step aerobics is not recommended, especially if you have not been doing it in the first place. That is mainly due to the fact that your chance of twisting your ankle is much greater when pregnant and that falling would not be good for you or the baby.

With my second pregnancy, I did it a bit different. I was teaching water exercise up to one day before delivery. I was doing aerobics, limited step or without risers.

With my son, I forgot everything and I exercised like crazy for 30 weeks and was on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. So did not listen at all.

With all three pregnancies I kept doing abdominal exercises. One of the best ones is to keep your core engaged continuously. It will also help support your lower back as your belly is getting bigger. By keeping proper posture your lumbar region will have less pull than when you “let it hang.”

Let’s talk about abdominal exercises.

Up to 20 weeks of pregnancy you can do any kind of abdominal exercise (if it feels OK). After 20 weeks, you have to be at least at a 20% incline. This way the uterus/baby will not compress the main blood circulation that goes back to the heart. You can accomplish this with putting a couple of pillows behind your back or do abdominals on a wellness ball. If you need a visual, you can purchase  a DVD  specifically designed for pregnant women.

Exercising is so beneficial because it:

• helps reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling

• may help prevent or treat gestational diabetes

• increases your energy

• improves your mood

• improves posture

• promotes muscle tone, strength and endurance

• helps you sleep better

Staying fit may improve your ability to deal with labor and even shorten it. You are building a whole new human being — and I can’t wait to meet my new grandchild!

Ester H. Marsh is Health & Fitness director of the JF Hurley Family YMCA.