Benefits of Prenatal & Postpartum Exercise: Tips from My Journey
August 01, 2023
Lauren Wellinger: ARENA Head of Performance
Now that my postpartum exercise routine is transitioning into a fully progressive strength training regimen, I'm able to reflect back, and I feel happy about my pregnancy journey.
The day you find out you’re pregnant for the first time everything around you and within you feels different.
If you’re anything like me, you spent one too many hours on Google, made endless lists in your notes app, and heavily weighed the pros and cons of every decision for the next… oh, I don’t know, infinity??
For me, the concept of strength training, something I had done my entire life and that had become my career, suddenly became foreign.
I wanted to continue to do it, and I knew it was safe. I even knew what needed to be contraindicated and yet, here I was back on Google looking for answers and confirmations.
Well, now with a clear mind and an almost 1 year old son, I’m here to be that confirmation for you. Not only are prenatal strength training and postpartum exercises safe, but they're encouraged.
How prenatal exercise is beneficial
The rule of thumb is that most fitness activities you participated in consistently before you became pregnant are fine to continue to do throughout pregnancy with some exceptions and modifications.
There are several physical benefits of strength training in general; for example, it’s correlated to increased longevity and it increases bone density. There are physiological and psychological benefits as well such as improved mood and better sleep.
These benefits, as well as several others, continue to impact us during pregnancy!
Trust me, mood swings? Real.
Exercise is generally a safer and cheaper way to manage these compared to other solutions.
There is an antiquated recommendation that the heart rate of a pregnant woman should not exceed 140bpm. The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) has since removed this limitation and instead recommends listening to your own body and getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly. If you can finish a sentence while working out, you’re fine.
Just remember to drink a minimum of 8-12 glasses of water each day!
So, if you are an avid runner, continue to run if you’d like.
If you enjoy group fitness, there’s no need to cancel your membership.
And, if you strength train in any capacity, you can have the piece of mind that most exercises are safe and beneficial for you and your baby!
Each trimester of pregnancy calls for different modifications due to baby’s growth. Check out our Prenatal Program on the Go ARENA App for 16 workouts approved for the first and second trimesters.
If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare provider. That’s what they're there for!
How postpartum exercise is beneficial
If you have had a complication-free pregnancy and delivery, the ACOG suggests exercising when you feel ready.
If you have had complications or delivered via cesarian, then you should consult first with your healthcare provider.
Keep in mind that you’ll have a postpartum checkup 6 weeks after delivery, which is a great time to ask any questions you have around resuming a postpartum exercise routine!
As you know now, there are several benefits to strength training that apply to us during our prenatal and postpartum states as well. Once you have your baby, you will find yourself in daily situations where you'll find having the strength to pick something up while holding your baby is essential.
Stealthily laying your baby down in his or her crib without them startling awake is peak mom performance, trust me!
In these situations and in countless others, having functional strength becomes increasingly important.
How you exercise on your own directly affects how you function with your baby.
I began my postpartum journey by walking my son in his stroller around the neighborhood. This elevated my heart rate just enough and on more than one occasion I was winded after the walk.
After my 6-week checkup, I started taking short runs and doing some bodyweight strength training in my living room. At first I was shocked, and disappointed, at my body’s inability to do what I used to do with ease.
Slowly but surely though, right?
Remember that your postpartum recovery is on your time.
For most women, the body has just experienced the most stress it has ever been under; give yourself grace as your body adjusts and you meet your new self!
For approved postpartum exercises for after you've had your baby, check out our Postpartum Program on the Go Arena mobile app!References: