ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It was once thought to be risky, but new research is showing exercise during pregnancy offers big benefits for mom and baby.
Exercise is good for anyone. But, staying active when you’re pregnant may be especially important.
Doctors used to think exercise during pregnancy was linked to pre-term birth, but a recent study shows it’s not. In fact, being active offered big benefits. Researchers looked at more than two thousand women and found exercise was linked to a lower risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as fewer C-sections. About 74 percent of women who exercised had a vaginal delivery, while 68 percent who didn’t had a C-section.
Jenn Lea, a Performance Coach at the Human Performance Institute said, “If you think about moms and their busy life, squeezing in anything is better than nothing at all.”
The CDC says healthy women should get at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week during and after their pregnancy. But you can divide it up into ten minutes at a time. The important thing is to keep moving. It’s good for you and your baby!
If you exercised vigorously before your pregnancy, you can continue to do so, but talk to your doctor first. You might need to modify your intensity as your pregnancy progresses. And certain activities may be off limits, such as those that put you at risk for falling or those that require you to lie flat on your back.
Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
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EXERCISE DURING PREGNANCY
BACKGROUND: Every year, close to 525,000 Americans have their first heart attack. In addition, 210,000 who have already experienced a heart attack have another. The American Heart Association (AHA) notes that regular exercise leads to heart-healthy habits and can prevent conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and poor cholesterol levels, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Around 69 percent of all adults are obese or overweight, and that number continues to increase. The AHA recommends 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3 to 4 times per week. In 2010, the National Center for Health Statistics found that about one in three adults who’d visited a doctor in the past year had been advised to start or continue an exercise program. That’s an increase of about 10 percent from 2000. Among adults aged 85 years and older, the percentage receiving advice to exercise has nearly doubled over the past decade. Adults with conditions like cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure were also told to exercise more.
MOVING WHILE PREGNANT: Pregnant women should ask their doctor what kinds of activities are safe to do during pregnancy. If the pregnancy is healthy, exercise doesn’t increase your risk of having a miscarriage, a premature baby (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or a baby born with low birthweight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces). Healthy pregnant women need at least 2½ hours of aerobic activity, like walking or swimming, each week. Physical activity can help them feel good and give them extra energy, while also easing some common discomforts of pregnancy, like constipation, back pain and swelling in the legs, ankles and feet. Activities like prenatal yoga and Pilates can help the mother practice breathing, meditation and other calming methods that may help manage labor pain. Conditions that make physical activity unsafe during pregnancy may include: preterm labor or bleeding from the vagina, cervical insufficiency, gestational hypertension, and severe anemia or certain heart or lung conditions. Activities pregnant women should avoid are basketball, hot yoga, downhill skiing, horseback riding and scuba diving.
LIFELONG HEALTH BENEFITS: Research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests that exercising during pregnancy can help protect the unborn child from diabetes and other health problems in later life. They determined exercise during pregnancy prevented a damaging epigenetic effect of the mother’s obesity, which is an effect believed to put chemical marks on genes and lead to diabetes in the offspring. The researchers identified the specific gene involved, providing an important target for developing drugs that would prevent the undesired effect. Zhen Yan of University of Virginia’s, Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center, says, “There is accumulating evidence suggesting diseases ranging from atherosclerosis to diabetes to schizophrenia, all these diseases we talk about these days, that are influenced by maternal condition.”
Researchers will take a closer look at the findings to better understand the effects of maternal obesity and exercise on the offspring’s genes, with hopes to conduct a clinical trial to evaluate the effects in people. “For me, the most important finding of this study is that you can modify the amount of exercise you have during pregnancy and that has a distinct molecular consequence on your child,” says researcher Jessica Connelly of the Berne Center.
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