Lifelong Benefits of Prenatal Exercise for Children and Mothers

Not so long ago, pregnancy was viewed almost like an illness and women were urged to cut down on or even avoid exercise during pregnancy to protect themselves and their babies. In 1985, the first guidelines for pregnant women were published by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) which included limiting vigorous activity to no more than 15 minutes at a time and to not exceed a heart rate of 140 beats per minute. These suggestions were very conservative and based on limited research. Although these recommendations have been updated since, the original guidelines are still perpetuated, creating many myths about exercise while pregnant.

The most recent revision of the ACOG Guidelines recommends at least 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week for pregnant women with no medical or obstetric complications. This update reflects the many studies that have shown little risk with this amount of exercise while providing significant benefits to mom and child.

The Benefits

Women who are physically active while pregnant reduce their risk of pregnancy induced hypertension, and experience shorter labours and better pregnancy outcomes. Exercise also plays a significant role in curtailing excessive weight gain during pregnancy, and it is effective in both preventing and treating gestational diabetes. Researchers also observed that mothers who participated in aerobic exercise post-partum combined with breastfeeding were less likely to become obese after 15 years.

New research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests that exercising during pregnancy can protect your child from diabetes and other health problems later in life. In the study, researchers determined that exercise during pregnancy prevented damaging chemical markers on specific genes that lead to diabetes in offspring. While the research was focused primarily on diabetes, there is evidence that suggests that disease transmission, ranging from arteriosclerosis and diabetes to schizophrenia, is influenced by the mother’s health. This could mean that the amount you exercise has the potential to improve your child’s health down to the cellular level.

Keep Moving

These findings carry an important message for moms-to-be, especially since the incidence of childhood obesity and diabetes are rising at alarming rates. If you have a little one on the way, talk to your doctor about low stress activities like swimming, walking, qi gong, and yoga. If you don’t exercise regularly but want to start during your pregnancy, make sure to start slowly and ease into a routine. No matter what exercise program you choose to do during your pregnancy, remember that you will not only be improving your health, but the health of your child as well.

Lifelong Benefits of Prenatal Exercise for Children and Mothers
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