Keeping up with your workout schedule while you’re pregnant doesn’t just help reduce backaches, prevent excess weight gain, and boost your energy levels, as the Mayo Clinic reports. Rather, according to new research, prenatal sweat seshes could also shorten your time in labor and delivery—which is a perk that just might be worth nine months of prep.
In a new study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, 508 women between 9 and 11 weeks pregnant were divided into two groups: One had three sessions of moderate exercise a week, and the other just received education about nutrition and physical activity during their checkups. The women who worked out on the reg not only had a shorter first stage of labor by 53 minutes (409 versus 462 minutes), but their total labor times were also an average of 57 minutes shorter (450 versus 507 minutes) than those who didn’t exercise. Furthermore, the women who exercised were less likely to use an epidural (perhaps because exercise might help people tolerate pain), and the prevalence of macrosomia (AKA babies with an excessive birth weight, at 8 pounds, 13 ounces) was higher for women who didn’t exercise regularly.
As if a shorter labor time and a smaller newborn to deliver aren’t sufficient reasons to prioritize exercising (as long as your doc gives a seal of approval to the habit, that is) with a bun in the oven, the study noted that maintaining your workout warrior status with a baby onboard can also decrease your risk of other potentially dangerous health risks, like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Basically, the benefits of copying Jessica Alba’s prenatal tips and exercising as your tummy slowly grows seem too numerous to ignore. And, bonus points if you also crave healthy greens like Serena Williams did when she was expecting.
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