Olivia Bowen: The positive impact of exercise during pregnancy


by Olivia Bowen |
Updated on

Exercise? Pregnancy? Really, it doesn’t sound like something that originally should go together. The sickness, the fatigue and not to mention the aches and pains that come with pregnancy – you wouldn’t expect to then add exercise into the mix.

Before I was pregnant, I really struggled with finding the motivation to get out and go to the gym. I enjoyed running, but the gym wasn’t something I could get to grips with. So, when I fell pregnant, my initial thoughts were that I could take it super easy and all together banish the gym from my life.

That being said, I knew deep down (past my lazy tendencies) that exercise is good for both you and the baby (as long as you do your research and suitable exercises), so I needed to at least do something. I’m not saying let's go lift our personal best in the weight section at the gym, or run a marathon… but something to keep those endorphins going and the body moving can be great.

"In the first trimester, with sickness and fatigue, I found it hard to go out and exercise."

In the first trimester, with sickness and fatigue, I found it hard to go out and exercise. Let’s face it, most of us just want to curl up on the sofa at this point! That being said, I appreciate that everyone is different. Someone’s pregnancy may be a lot smoother sailing than your own, and that can be hard to watch and experience. If you were really into the gym before becoming pregnant, it's likely it’ll do you good to keep it up. The main thing to remember is not to compare yourself to anyone else and to consult your doctor and midwife.

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I actually took up Pilates just before I found out I was pregnant. It was one of the best decisions I made because I carried it on weekly until I was about 36 weeks pregnant. Pilates is a great form of exercise because it’s all about controlled, smooth movements including stretching and strengthening. You also don’t work up a huge sweat (I did a bit, with my little baby radiator in my belly!) but your heart rate doesn’t race and it’s a really gentle way of exercising and working your muscles.

I also found that it improved my aches and pains. My teacher was super experienced in prenatal Pilates, so it gave me a huge boost of confidence knowing I could still use my body but follow her advice. Prenatal classes of yoga or Pilates are amazing for strengthening your pelvic floor for labour too, and they can reduce back pain and help with breathing techniques.

The benefits of exercising in pregnancy were super important to me. I really struggle if I don’t get out into the fresh air, so simple things like walking the dogs became my holy grail and is something I’d recommend for other expecting mums.

I have spoken before about my struggle with anxiety and when things got too much - Alex and I would take the dogs out for a nice chilled walk. It gave me a chance to talk, to breathe and to take my mind off things. You don’t have to go crazy, a half an hour walk does you so much good. Exercise is proven to boost your mood and energy levels. Stretching your legs, opening up your thoughts to a friend and getting that fresh air can make a huge difference both mentally and physically.

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Talking of which, we know that exercise gives off endorphins (the happy hormone, I like to call it), so it’s super beneficial to you and to your baby to find something you enjoy. That’s the crucial thing, being able to pick something you like! I think for me, knowing that I’m doing just something to move my body gives me a boost of confidence too! It’s hard to imagine and sometimes accept what our bodies will be like after the baby, and it’s something I try not to worry about - but knowing that I’m doing a little exercise whilst pregnant makes me feel empowered and confident with my body.

Exercise also has a massive impact on my sleep too. I don’t know about you guys, but sleeping whilst pregnant became a bit of an Olympic sport during the third trimester. All that tossing and turning with what feels like a watermelon on my stomach! But I found that on days when I exercised and got out, I slept so much better. I was doing some research and found that exercise is proven to help your energy levels AND promotes better sleep. So, all in all, you really can’t use pregnancy as an excuse not to exercise… damn it!

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So to end this column, I get it’s not for everyone but I would definitely recommend exercising and finding something that works for you during your pregnancy. It has given me so many positives, so even when I’ve not felt like it, I’ve pushed through and I’ve genuinely never regretted it.

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