Why is prenatal and postpartum exercise so important?

Sarasota-Manatee is attracting new young families to the area, and with that come new mothers and pregnant women. A prenatal and postpartum woman needs resources to stay healthy, active, and connected to support.

Sarasota personal trainer Liya Naidorf is working to create a space just for them. Pregnant herself, Naidorf knows the important physical, mental and social role of exercise during and after pregnancy. She works with a local gym Core SRQ offer weekly exercise classes for moms Bay Park Conservation.

Naidorf, who specializes in prenatal and postpartum training, shares the benefits of exercising during pregnancy and how to make sure you and your baby stay safe when you exercise.

What are the physical benefits of postpartum exercise?

Naidorf says exercise can help strengthen muscles and prevent back pain while carrying the baby. You can also strengthen postural muscles and avoid unnecessary weight gain after childbirth. Exercise can help balance appetite, strengthen pelvic floor muscles, and return joints, muscles, and ligaments to proper length and tension after work.

“Exercise also helps reverse and treat issues such as diastatic recti. [separation of the abdominal wall] caused by pregnancy and labor,” says Naidorf. “Depending on your fitness level before you got pregnant and during pregnancy, your body will need time to adapt and heal.

Are there mental health benefits?

Exercise can increase energy levels and productivity, improve sleep quality, and increase relaxation hormones, thereby reducing stress levels. Exercise can also help combat symptoms of postpartum depression, a common challenge new mothers face.

“Postpartum depression can be managed when you engage in activities that make you feel like yourself or still have control over your body,” says Naidorf. “You are responsible for the positive changes it contains. It is important to feel that training is for body and mind.” (If you have symptoms of postpartum depression, talk to your doctor right away.)

She adds that exercising in front of your baby will help build healthy habits throughout life, and that exercising in a mother’s group can help with socialization and emotional support after birth.

“These groups are not just for exercise, but also for sharing your struggles with other mothers who understand and working to find solutions,” Naidorf says.

What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

Twenty years ago, doctors instilled fear in pregnant women when it came to exercise, Niadorf says. But now there is evidence proving that exercising right up to the day of delivery, health permitting, is the most beneficial thing you can do.

With exercise you can shorten the working time and make it easier on the body. You can reduce the need for medication during pregnancy and labor and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. “Exercise improves insulin sensitivity,” says Naidorf.

“Workout pushes glucose molecules into muscle cells instead of storing fat,” she says. “Although gestational diabetes can affect any woman, it can be easily managed with proper diet and exercise.” Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are 50% more likely to develop diabetes by age 22.

Additionally, exercising during pregnancy can also support sore joints, strengthen the abdominals, diaphragm, and pelvic muscles, and keep the skin free of stretch marks. Other benefits include reduced nausea, better sleep, increased energy, and immune system support.

What are the safe and dangerous exercises to do during pregnancy?

A good rule of thumb is to keep doing whatever you were doing before pregnancy, but at a slower pace and lower intensity, says Naidorf. She advises mixing resistance training with low-impact exercises like yoga or water aerobics. She also suggests consulting a personal trainer with experience in prenatal work. Here is his list of do’s and don’ts:

To do :

  • Low weight and light resistance
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • slots
  • Gluteal and hamstring exercises
  • Upper body work
  • Planks and free weights
  • balance exercises

Not to do :

  • Abdominal exercises that create a lot of pressure, such as leg presses on the machine.
  • Crunches or leg/knee lifts, which put too much load on the spine.
  • Intense side-to-side agility drills. Stop once you are in the second trimester.
  • Lying on your stomach. Stop once you are in the second trimester or if you start showing.

How can moms stay motivated to exercise?

Naidorf suggests having friends who can be accountability partners; join a mom’s fitness group; practicing self-awareness by noticing any negative self-talk and replacing it with positive affirmations; buying fun maternity workout clothes and gear; write down two to three realistic goals you want to accomplish; and nourish your body with whole foods.

“If you stick to the reasons you wanted to exercise in the first place — whether it’s to have an easy birth, ease pain, or heal faster — you’re more likely to keep going,” Naidorf adds.

She also recommends following moms on social media which provides motivation and inspiration.

Where can you find prenatal and postpartum resources?

Naidorf works on a community program through CoreSRQ Palmer Ranch where women can receive comprehensive health education during pregnancy and postpartum. The program will offer workouts combined with nutritional counseling, mental preparation for work and beyond, meditation classes and workshops.

“Sarasota has found a way to meet the needs of older communities, but there are young people and families moving here who need resources like ours,” says Naidorf. “It’s a safe and controlled environment where each mom can take things at her own pace.”

CoreSRQ at The Bay: Moving Moms class is held every Thursday morning at 8 a.m. at 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information, click here. For more prenatal and postpartum resources, visit Naidorf’s YouTube channel, Resilient fertility.

About Shirley A. Tamayo

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