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Exercising for Two: 7 Reasons Your Baby Wins When You Hit the Gym

Mother's across the globe share one simple wish: to have a healthy baby. The benefits of exercise impact the health of your growing baby immediately, and are available to your baby even if you've been a self proclaimed “couch potato” up until now.

Thinking of exercise as an essential part of a normal, healthy pregnancy might be hard to stomach for some. Especially during the exhausting first trimester, when you've spent the whole day green in the face, wondering if anyone would be offended if you vomited into the recycling bin.

During a normal pregnancy, with the approval of your maternity health care provider, it's safe and healthy to continue your moderate to high intensity exercise routine, including running. Women who were not exercising before pregnancy, are advised to create a daily exercise routine with low impact, moderate paced activities such as walking, swimming, and prenatal yoga.

Some exercises might increase your risk of developing diastasis rectis during pregnancy. Not every woman develops diastasis recti, but you can be aware of how to prevent it. If you do have diastasis recti from previous births, there are exercises and programs available that will pull the muscles in closer together, and strengthen them. Exercising before, during and after pregnancy can be a way to prevent and heal diastasis recti.

Here are 7 reasons why exercise during pregnancy benefits your baby for life!

7 Reduce Your Chance of Having a C-section

Women who exercise during pregnancy significantly lower their risk of having a C-section.

In one study, women who exercised during pregnancy reduced the risk of having a caesarean section by 20%.

When necessary, C-section births save the lives of mothers and babies. An unfortunate, unavoidable side effect of caesarean birth is the lack of natural inoculation of the unique maternal microbiome that is transmitted at the moment of birth, as the baby moves down the birth canal and out of the mother. This bacterial transfer perfectly prepares the baby's body to adapt to its environment. 

The microbiome is a huge component of keeping the human body alive and functioning normally, and this lack of bacterial installment at birth may be a cause of childhood disorders and chronic disease, which are linked to C-Section delivery. 

6 Optimize Your Baby's Birth Weight

Working out regularly during pregnancy may boost your child's future athletic and cognitive potential, and will provide a good chance at a healthy and disease free life. Establishing a daily exercise routine during pregnancy could be considered as vital as a healthy diet for your baby's prenatal development.

As little as 30 minutes of daily exercise during pregnancy will give your baby's developing brain and body a healthy start in life, with benefits that will last it's lifetime! Daily exercise during pregnancy can lower health and fetal risks associated with maternal obesity, and prevent the baby from developing diabetes and heart disease later in life.

Your baby's overall health depends on your health

Babies born to mothers who exercise regularly are born with the benefit of normalized birth weight. Both a low and a high birth weight are associated with diabetes and obesity. A child born within the healthy weight range is less likely to develop childhood diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and other metabolic disease. 

Childhood obesity is now considered a global epidemic, and children today are experiencing health problems normally not seen until middle age. Improve your future child's quality of life and longevity, with something that could be as simple as walking (at a 'brisk' waddle) for 30 minutes after dinner every night.

5 Soothe Your Baby and Prevent Pregnancy and Labor Complications

Go for a 20 minute run, or take a yoga class, and feel the effect of the best natural drug there is. Exercise regulates the sleep cycle, stimulates the immune system, and releases mood-boosting endorphins. Pregnant women's bodies and the placenta, naturally produce higher levels of stress hormones during pregnancy, which may help to keep mom on alert for anything that could harm her unborn baby. 

The stress we need to recognize and learn how to reduce, is the stress that originates in the mind. Becoming a mother is a major life altering process, and it's common for women to experience financial, physical, relationship, employment, and psychological stress during their pregnancy. 

Maternal stress is linked to hypertension; the development of preeclampsia during pregnancy; reduced blood flow to the uterus, umbilical cord, and fetus; premature birth, low birth weight, and other adverse fetal outcomes. Babies born to mothers who exercised during pregnancy, were flooded with the same relaxing hormones and chemicals that gave mom a sense of well being and accomplishment, during her work out.

Your workout can mean the difference between being prepared for labor and having a hard labor

Research shows that mother's who exercise during pregnancy have shorter labours, and less risk of intervention at birth, reducing birth trauma to mom and baby.

Women who exercise during pregnancy produce lower levels of maternal corticotropin release hormone (CRH), even after experiencing external stressors, or thinking about something that stresses them out. It's now thought that CRH stimulates the beginning of labour. This could be part of the reason why a Danish study found that exercise during pregnancy reduced the risk of delivering a preterm baby by 40%.

4 Get Your Baby Ready for the Olympics!

Is your baby going to be on skates before they walk? Do you already have your favourite team jersey in sizes 0-12 months? You can begin to train a national champion from inside the womb!

During exercise the fetal heart rate increases while the mother exercises, so your baby is getting it's cardio while you do! The great feeling we get after exercising is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how your body responds to exercise after a workout. Regular exercise will make you stronger, help your body to regulate itself, and improve your bodily functions. Your baby's heart will benefit not only during that Zumba class, but years after birth!

Not only does your physical activity benefit them in utero, but seeing you being active growing up sets a standard for your child as well

Research at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences found that babies of mothers who maintained their daily exercise routine during the last trimester of pregnancy, showed significant ability for fetal cardiac autonomic function, heart rate variability, and lower heart rates. That means that these newborn babies had the heart capabilities of an athlete (or daily exerciser), while still in the womb! 

4 weeks after birth, the babies in the study maintained their strong heart heath, and lower resting heart rate.

A more recent study performed at Michigan State University discovered that children whose mom's exercised during pregnancy averaged lower systolic blood pressures at 8-10 years of age, compared with kid's whose mom's didn't exercise during pregnancy. A healthy blood pressure reading is 120/80.

3 Boost Your Baby's Brain Potential

Create a master mind through the power of sweat. Build the next great inventor, and give your baby the best chance of success in life, by exercising during pregnancy to expand your baby's mind.

After your baby strategically exits your womb, like a skillfully anticipated chess move, your well conditioned newborn might out perform all the babies on the ward, with its exceptional APGAR scores.

A University of Montréal study showed that babies born to mothers who exercised at moderate intensity, 30 minutes per day, 3 times a week during their 2nd and 3rd trimesters, had babies who at age 8-12 days old displayed advanced brain reactivity in response to new stimuli and sounds, typically seen in mature babies at least 4 months of age.

Hey, your brain is a muscle too!

Aerobic exercise results in an immediate increase of mitochondrial activity in the fetal brain during exercise. The mitochondria is the energy power-house of our cells. Exercise increases oxygen supply to the fetal brain, promoting growth of brain cells, and enhancing future motor skills development. Children at age 5 whose mothers had exercised during pregnancy, performed better on language skill and intelligence tests, compared to children born to mothers who were sedentary during pregnancy.

2 Stimulate Placental Growth to Give Your Baby Optimum Nutrition

Exercise during pregnancy equals a healthier placenta (and more efficient nutrient delivery to your baby).

The placenta is a very important, highly specialized organ that nourishes, protects, and enables the healthy growth of your baby. The first job of the placenta is to protect the fetus, by excreting hormones in the early days of pregnancy. These hormones prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the rapidly developing embryo. 

After the birth, the mother's body will expel all the fetal tissue, including the placenta, which is actually a double organ: a maternal placenta, and an fetal placenta. The placenta delivers oxygen and water to your baby. Your baby is nourished by the glucose, amino acids, water soluble vitamins and nutrients that pass through the placenta. Fat that you eat is broken down and re-synthesized for your baby, in the placenta.

A healthy placenta means a healthy baby

The placentas of women who exercised during pregnancy were larger than those of women who did not exercise during pregnancy, showing that exercise stimulates placental growth. During exercise, oxygen and nutrient delivery to the placenta are temporarily reduced. This is buffered by the cardiovascular workout your baby experiences while you are working out. Exercising increases blood volume and the result is a higher functioning and well developed placenta.

1 Prevent Cardiovascular Disease in Adults

An interesting study at Purdue University on the effects of daily 30-45 minute exercise on pregnant sows and their piglets, both before and after birth, showed that exercise during pregnancy increased vascular smooth muscle within the arteries and veins of the offspring. 

Vascular smooth muscle is important because it's role in the body is to allow our arteries to adjust rapidly to changes in blood flow. Vascular smooth muscle in veins, pumps blood back to the heart. Smooth muscle is found throughout our body, including in the bladder; reproductive, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts; in the uterus, our skin, lymphatic vessels, and eyes.

Cardiovascular research is looking at the role of vascular and arterial function in the development of heart disease. This research has the potential to show that 30 minutes of daily exercise during pregnancy may have significant lifelong health benefits, potentially decreasing the risk of your child developing heart disease later in life.

You can help your child fight heart disease just by working our when you're pregnant

Pregnant women are advised to exercise 30 minutes a day, on most days of the week. In a normal pregnancy, being active before your pregnancy, and during the first weeks and months can reduce the potential for an early miscarriage. In a normal pregnancy, exercise adapted to your current state of fitness, including vigorous exercise like running will not disrupt or cause harm to the fetus. On the contrary, exercise will protect your fetus and encourage normal development.

Listen to your body and never over exert yourself. You're pregnant, so take it easy. If you love to work out hard, pregnancy might be a time to dial it back a little. If you have a physically active job, or your friends and family want to help you out, let them go up and down the stairs for you. Protect yourself and take time to relax. When you do work out, make sure it's something that leaves you feeling good, and that you can complete while remaining relaxed and calm.

You should always consult your doctor before beginning new activities when pregnant

There's never a better time than now to make healthy nutrition and exercise a daily part of your routine. You'll look better, feel better, and have a faster recovery after birth. Women who exercise also maintain a stronger pelvic floor after birth, which prevents urinary incontinence or organ prolapse.

If you've never exercised before, and are a complete beginner, you can start out with something simple like walking for a half hour every day. If you hate walking, or your feet are sore, go swimming, join a gym and take fitness classes, or do work out videos at home.

Pregnancy is the ideal time to develop fit and healthy habits. The benefits of exercise shared between you and your baby, are long lasting, and will help shape the future health of our children.

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