Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Is Exercise Medicine for Pregnant Women?

The American College of Sports Medicine Seems to think so

Canada's leading researcher on exercise during pregnancy recently joined forces with two American researchers to publish, "Integrating Exercise is Medicine® into the Care of Pregnant Women" in the July/August 2013 issue of the American College of Sports Medicine Journal.  Dr. Mottola, from The University of Western Ontario, is a proponent of the many benefits of an active pregnancy.  

Integrating Exercise is Medicine ® is an American initiative that encourages adults to achieve a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity. This recommendation includes pregnant women.

There are many benefits to an active pregnancy.  This article highlights a few:
  • Women who enter pregnancy meeting the recommended levels of physical activity are more likely to continue exercise throughout pregnancy.
  • Women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to resume exercise in the postpartum period.
  • Regular exercise during pregnancy is associated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.
  • Lower rates of obesity and excessive maternal weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Improved long-term health of women.

The authors of this article argue that pregnancy is the ideal time to begin integrating exercise as medicine.   Why?

Unlike non-pregnant patients, pregnant women see their healthcare providers an average of 11 times over the course of an uncomplicated 40 week pregnancy.  This gives healthcare providers more time to assess levels of physical activity and counsel the patient on appropriate exercise choices.  It also gives healthcare providers the opportunity to follow up throughout a woman's pregnancy journey.

The journal describes two studies in Finland where exercise intervention was integrated into prenatal healthcare visits.  Both studies reported a significant increase in the frequency and duration of moderate-intensity exercise sessions among the pregnant women who received on-going exercise counseling.  In both studies the physicians reported finding it feasible to include exercise intervention as part of the prenatal healthcare visits.

In conclusion, the American College of Sports Medicine, along with the authors of the journal article, recommend training healthcare providers to effectively integrate exercise counseling into the prenatal healthcare model. They also encourage ongoing research in this area in order to find best practice and optional outcomes measures.  

You can read the full journal article here.

Did your doctor or midwife talk to you about exercise when you were pregnant?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fitness or Yoga? What is the best choice during pregnancy?

We get this question a lot.  The answer? Both.

Our Prenatal Yoga and Prenatal Fitness classes share many benefits:

  • Improved flexibility resulting in less aches and pains
  • Reduced stress
  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Breath awareness for labour
  • Stronger deep core muscles
  • Toned pelvic floor
  • Improved social, mental and physical health

Prenatal Fitness has some unique benefits:

  • Prevention and management of gestational diabetes
  • Strength and stamina for parenting
  • Appropriate weight gain
  • Cardiovascular health

So does Prenatal Yoga:

  • Coping mechanisms for parenting stress
  • More time spent on breath awareness and relaxation

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recommends that healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies do cardiovascular exercise up to 4 days a week.  They also promote strength and flexibility training.  While they make no official statement on yoga, most doctors and midwives encourage pregnant patients to attend a prenatal yoga class.  So how does a busy woman make this happen?

We recommend beginning with 3 days a week of schedule fitness and yoga.  For example, you might attend Prenatal Fitness Monday, do your own workout Wednesday, then Prenatal Yoga on Saturday mornings.  Once you have established that routine for 2 weeks, add in 2 more sessions of cardio. Choose activities that you are used to and that do not put you at risk of falling, over heating or physical contact.  Impact exercises like running are okay if you are used to them.  If you were previously sedentary, walking is a great place to start.  Be sure to stay within the prenatal fitness guidelines for frequency, intensity, time and type

Once you have established your 3 scheduled days of fitness and yoga, plus 2 more sessions of cardio, begin a short private yoga practice most days of the week.  Focus on breath, pelvic floor and gentle stretches.

Questions?  Ask your local Fit 4 Two Instructor.