If you’re pregnant and wondering if you can still hit the gym, recent research answers with a resounding “yes”. Researchers looked at 2,800 healthy pregnant women who enrolled in exercise programs. Prior to the study, the women were getting little to no exercise. By exercising moderately, the women reduced their risk of gestational diabetes by more than 30 per cent; women exercising throughout their entire pregnancy reduced their risk by 36 per cent.”
In general, if you’ve been working out, it’s a great idea to continue with your pre-pregnancy exercise plan,” says Dr. Karen Fleming, Family Medicine Obstetrics at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “With the boost from this research, I continue to say that exercise is medicine to be included in most women’s pregnancy plan, just like taking folic acid and avoiding alcohol.”
Diabetes during pregnancy is especially important, as the disease impacts both mothers and their unborn children. Gestational diabetes may predispose some women to developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Untreated diabetes during pregnancy can cause difficulties during pregnancy such as a miscarriage or a baby born with birth defects. Women with diabetes are also more likely to have a heart attack, and at a younger age, than women without diabetes. Their children are also at risk of diabetes in their future. Dr. Fleming has tips for exercising during pregnancy:
1. Chat with your health team: Discuss the exercise prescription with your family doctor, obstetrician or midwife, especially if you have special needs in pregnancy. ParmedX for Pregancy is an excellent updated tool for women to explore.
2. Think small: Start small and go slow initially with 10 minutes of exercise at a time expanding to 40 minutes 3-4 times per week. Canadian guidelines for activity recommend 150 minutes per week.
3. Do what you love: Whether it’s a brisk walk, visiting the gym, taking a prenatal yoga class or going for a swim, make sure it’s something you enjoy so it will become a habit and supported time. Groups who exercise together provide great ongoing support.
4. Avoid dangerous sports: Contact sports and those that might throw you off balance, like downhill skiing or mountain biking, should be avoided.
5. Warm up and keep hydrated: Gently warm-up and drink lots of water before, during and after exercise
“Educating pregnant women about the importance of exercise is a wonderful opportunity to help not one, but two, generations,” adds Dr. Fleming.