The Case For Exercise in Pregnancy

With maternal mortality rates SOARING, knowing HOW to exercise in pregnancy is VITAL.  But who can you turn to for such guidance?

Dr. Kelly, Pregnant in her 2nd Trimester, exercises in a plank position. Exercise is safe and improves health of baby and mother in most cases.
Exercise in pregnancy is not only generally safe, but it actually improves the overall health of baby and mother!

Oh, hi guys :). It’s me, Dr. Kelly, one of a handful of Doctors of Physical Therapy in the world who are double board certified in Orthopedics and Pelvic Health.  We’ve already covered 3 easy ways to improve maternal health in a prior post.  Today, I’d like to demystify exercise in pregnancy for you.

Point: Exercise is safe during pregnancy

For all non-complicated pregnancies (low risk, mothers under the age of 35, no placenta prevue or abruptia, no need for bed rest), mothers who exercised during their pregnancy had ZERO INCREASE in adverse outcomes when compared to mothers who did not exercise.

The studies abound.  Check out

  • Hinman, et al, Sports Health 2015, where the American College of Sports Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most, if not all, days of the week.  This was in 2015, folks.  
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists go further, and have a hefty 2020 paper on their website, Physical Activity During Pregnancy & the Postpartum Period, which states that moderate exercise is safe, and that even high-intensity exercise, in low-risk individuals who have been active before conception, is safe.

That’s cool…but it 100% does NOT surprise me that exercise is “safe” during pregnancy.  What I wrote this blog post for today is a BIGGER POINT.  Are you ready??   …Wait for it…

BIGGER POINT: Exercise in Pregnancy actually REDUCES health risks to mother and baby!!

Say what?!?!?   Exercise in pregnancy not only isn’t risky…but it can actually REDUCE my risk of illnesses, like obesity, diabetes, mental health problems, etc?

  • Witvrouwen, et al, 2020: Physical activity improves cardiovascular health in pregnancy and may lower the risk of developing hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.
  • Sorensen, et al, 2003 found that women who engaged in any regular leisure physical activity during pregnancy experienced a 35% reduction in the risk of preeclampsia.
  • Sorensen, et al, 2003 then went further….IF women engaged in vigorous activities, such as running or brisk walking, the reduction in preeclampsia was 54%

A 54% REDUCTION in Preeclampsia risk?  If we could bottle that, we’d be zillionaires!!

And I’m not yet done with the evidence behind evidence not harming mom and baby, but ACTUALLY helping them!!!

  • Bao, et al, 2014, reported that 100 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week could lead to a 9% reduction in gestational diabetes development.  That’s 20 minutes, 5 days a week…or 14 minutes every day.  
  • FURTHERMORE, Bao found that the most significant risk reductions were for the mordbidly obese 
  • Lust, et al, 2021 (you KNOW I had to cite them simply because the lead author’s name was Lust…) found reductions in gestational diabetes in normal weight and obese individuals.  They further stated that “specifically, an exercise intervention of 40- to 60-minute sessions 3 times per week beginning as early as possible during pregnancy and continuing with good adherence over the course of pregnancy yielded clinically significant results.”

And improved weight loss and body image

  • Chan, et al 2019 found that aerobic exercise improved health related quality of life
  • Downs, et al, 2008 and Boscagilia, et al, 2003 found greater mental health benefits associated with higher intensity owrkouts
  • And while you all know that I personally work out to be MORE of a human–to have MORE muscles and MORE strength, I know some of y’all are worried about the number on the scale. If that’s you, then listen to Jiang, et al, 2012, who found that regular moderate exercise throughout pregnancy leads to significantly less maternal weight gain in second and third trimesters, compared to non-exercisers

And the mental health benefits…

  • Gildner, et al (2020), and Davenport, 2020 found that women who reported at least 150 min of moderate intensity exercise exhibiting significantly lower scores for both anxiety and depression compared to those who exercised less.

Phew.  Isn’t the evidence supporting the awesomeness of exercise during pregnancy almost overwhelming??

I feel it every day.

And while I love that YOU are getting this information about exercise in pregnancy, too many others are not.

That first Wirvouwen, et al, 2020 study I mentioned?  It continued to say: “However, a minority of pregnant women comply with the recommended level of physical activity. Adequate knowledge on the physiological effects of exercise in healthy pregnancy could help to overcome potential barriers as pregnancy is a unique window of opportunity to improve health outcomes for both mother and child.”

Sad panda face.

My Pelvic Floored Pregnancy Course is specifically designed to improve access to general fitness and exercise during pregnancy.

The Pregnancy Course, covers basic exercise instruction during pregnancy AND so much more!!  It’s about how to get, or stay strong, in pregnancy.  It’s about how to manage pains that may arise.  It’s about how to eat reasonably, deal with hormone fluctuations, and yes, even about how to stay frisky in the bedroom as that beautiful belly grows.

Interested?  Read on!

Dr. Kelly, Pregnant in her 2nd Trimester, exercises in a plank position. Exercise is safe and improves health of baby and mother in most cases.

Your RAD Pregnancy

An incredible lesson in your amazing changing body! From what’s happening inside, to how to handle pains, sex AND even build strength during pregnancy. You don’t want to miss this! $199.

Your RAD Pregnancy

This class is proudly presented with Dr. Chrissy Clark, Board Certified Doctor of Physical Therapy in Pelvic Health AND CrossFit Level 2 Coach (as well as lifetime athlete and coach!). Your Purchase includes Bump Lab, a 2-hour journey in “what’s happening inside” you AND baby during your pregnancy. It also includes 12 guided weight lifting workouts, with education on exactly how, and why, we modify exercises during pregnancy to keep you thriving! Not to mention bonus pelvic floor relaxation meditations AND tips on how to handle common aches/pains in pregnancy AND beyond! You DO NOT want to miss this!

You've done the work to stay strong in The Pregnancy Course, now complete the package with delivery-focused Push Prep!

Everything you need to know for an empowered delivery, from best and worst labor positions, to perineal stretching, to concrete ways your birth partner can help you in delivery and beyond!
A very pregnant Dr. Kelly bends forward over a Birth Ball, a strategy she learned in Pelvic Floored's Push Prep Course

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