Exercise may not be a cure for depression and anxiety during pregnancy, but it certainly seems to help. A systemic review of physical exercise during pregnancy for healthy women finds that it’s safe and beneficial to mother and child. And there are more than 30 years of evidence that aerobic exercise such as running helps reduce stress hormones and decrease generalized anxiety and anxiety sensitivity, according to Women’s Running.
The key is to select exercise that is right for your level of fitness. If you’ve been mostly sedentary before you became pregnant, you’ll want to stick to mild or moderate levels of exercise. That means you’re breathing harder, but aren’t out of breath, and it takes about 10 minutes to work up a light sweat. For healthy women who are used to staying in shape, vigorous exercise that immediately works up a sweat and makes it hard to talk is fine. Most experts agree that workouts that don’t stress the joints are preferable, especially in the final trimester, but some research points to benefits with moderate weight lifting as well as aerobics. Just steer clear of sports that include a risk of falling or abdominal trauma. In other words, your MMA career will have to be put on hold for a few months.
The benefits of exercising during pregnancy are pretty impressive and include:
· Reduced symptoms of depression
· Less anxiety
· Better cardiovascular fitness and stamina (a real bonus during delivery)
· Preventing back pain
· Weight control during pregnancy
· Less need for insulin for women with gestational diabetes
· Easier recovery after childbirth
So when is exercise contraindicated? It’s best to check with your health-care provider before starting if you are experiencing any of these issues:
· High blood pressure
· Carrying more than one baby
· Cervical weakness or placenta previa
· Low fetal size
· Asthma or other cardiopulmonary issues
· A history of premature delivery
· Extremely overweight or underweight
· Joint or muscle problems
· Braxton Hicks contractions that get worse or don’t stop
For expectant women who get the green light, exercise will do a world of good. Walking, running, riding a stationary bicycle, stair climbing, swimming, water aerobics or aerobic dance are all good, but it’s important to choose something you enjoy and will continue. For added benefits, consider joining a walking or running group that meets outdoors. You’ll get the added boost of community support as well as exercise in nature—both of which has been shown to be beneficial for women who experience anxiety and depression during pregnancy.
Want more tips on self-care? Here are 7 Hacks for Your Emotional Well-Being While Pregnant.
Bottom line: Exercise during pregnancy is safe for most pregnant women and an effective way of combating the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Please check with your health-care provider before starting.