I always get questions about exercise during pregnancy. I exercised during both of my pregnancies and I found it to be very beneficial, both physically and mentally. Fortunately there are a lot of amazing experts out there that specialize in pre- and post- natal workouts. I was lucky enough to find Jennifer Johnson, Founder of Fit for Expecting.
Fit for Expecting’s exclusive focus is on safe and effective exercise for moms before, during and after pregnancy. Jennifer has a team of perinatal exercise specialists, trainers, nutritionsits and other perinatal support professionals. She is also a mom to a handsome little boy who recently turned one so she can empathise with all the mamas-to-be out there. I put together a list of all your burning questions (it’s a long list) for Jennifer to answer. Read on to find out the best moves to do during labor, 3 moves that give you the biggest bang for your buck, and why strong abs are important (yes they are still under there somewhere) and so much more…
Fit Fab Mommy (FFM): A little background on yourself, Fit For Expecting & how it all was born!
Fit for Expecting (FFE): Before Fit for Expecting I worked in fundraising, mostly for children’s health organizations. I really enjoyed the work I was doing, but something was missing. I have always been passionate about pregnancy, babies and health. I started noticing that when friends and family members were pregnant they had so much fear, with exercise being one of the things that they feared. As a result, they often stopped exercising completely, no matter how much they exercised before being pregnant. This piqued my interest and I started researching to see if these fears were based on any scientific evidence. I discovered that not only were the fears not backed by evidence, but that exercising during pregnancy is so incredibly beneficial for both mom and baby. It was right then that I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to helping moms safely exercise during and after pregnancy. Fit for Expecting was born!
FFM: What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?
FFE: There are so many! Here are some of the top benefits.
Benefits for Mom:
• Reduced risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, pregnancy-related discomforts
• Reduced need for medical intervention during labor/delivery
• Reduced risk of postpartum depression
• Improved ability to lose weight and fat after delivery
Benefits for Baby:
• “Fit” babies who are less likely to be overweight throughout their lives
• More likely to be calm and better able to adjust to life outside of the womb
FFM: What types of exercise is best for pregnant mamas?
FFE: I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all exercise program and I definitely think that what is “best” for one pregnant mama isn’t necessarily best for another. With that being said, research tells us that weight-bearing aerobic and resistance exercise have the most impact on critical health factors for mom and baby. Weight-bearing aerobic exercise includes activities such as: walking, jogging, stair climbing and dancing. Dumbbells (appropriate for your fitness level), resistance bands and even your own body weight are great tools to use when doing resistance exercise.
FFM: What moves should you avoid while pregnant?
FFE: Exercises that require you to be on your stomach or back (after the first trimester) are not recommended. Other than that, the rule of thumb is to listen to your body and don’t do exercises that cause pain, discomfort or bleeding. If something doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. Exercising during pregnancy should make you feel better, not worse.
FFM: And what about abs? Should you continue to work on them while pregnant or forget about them all together?
FFE: I get asked this question a lot. Having a strong core (which includes your abs) is very important during pregnancy. You obviously won’t be able to do the same type of core training that you can do when you’re not pregnant, but that doesn’t mean that you should neglect that part of your training altogether. Crunches are a no-no but there are simple yet effective breathing exercises, several standing core exercises and the bird dog exercise, to name a few, that are great ways to target your core during pregnancy.
FFM: What exercises should you do specifically to help during labor?
FFE: Squats are GREAT and one of the best labor prep exercises you can do. Here’s some more information on squats during pregnancy: Quick Prenatal Squat Workout. Exercises that open your hips are also great to do. Here’s one example: Quick Prenatal Hip Opener . Walking is also a must. Even if you can only go for 10 minutes, it’s worth it!
FFM: What about mamas who never worked out before. Should they start now?
FFE: It’s definitely safe to start exercising during pregnancy, if you do it the right way. My first recommendation is to get clearance from your doctor or midwife. Once you get the green light, I recommend seeing a qualified perinatal exercise professional. It’s a good idea, at least initially, to have a qualified professional put together a program for you and monitor your form, check in on how you’re feeling and make adjustments when necessary. If you can’t afford that, walking is a great activity to start out with. Start with 10-15 minutes and slowly increase as your fitness level improves.
FFM: Can exercise help mom recover quicker after delivery?
FFE: Yes! Research tells us that exercising regularly does indeed help moms recover quicker after delivery.
FFM: What are your 3 favorite exercise moves for all moms-to-be
FFE: This is a tough one. I’ll pick 3 that give you a big bang for your buck. Squats (there are several different variations you can do to keep things interesting), the Bird Dog (to strengthen your core) and Walking (if you’re able to, walking outside is ideal and adding in some hills is a great way to increase the intensity if appropriate for your fitness level).
FFM: What do you do at your prenatal consultations and is it important for a mom-to-be to work with a trainer?
FFE: I definitely think pregnant moms greatly benefit from working with a qualified trainer, even if just for a consultation or a few sessions. Your body changes so much during pregnancy and it’s a smart idea to make sure that your exercise program is not only safe but also effective. Prenatal workout DVDs, which a lot of pregnant moms do, are great but they aren’t tailored for you, they don’t monitor your form or how your body is responding to exercise. There are some small group prenatal exercise classes around that, when taught by qualified instructors, are a good alternative if you can’t afford working privately with a trainer.