Thinking of using a pregnancy exercise app like Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis Pregnancy? Pete Lindsay, Jessica Ennis-Hill's sports psychologist, shares the science-backed reasons why exercising pre-birth is good for mother, baby, dad and his swimmers
While regular physical activity throughout life has been shown to have a wide range of physical and psychological benefits, research shows that fewer than 15% of pregnant women actually achieve the minimum recommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity.
There are a host of reasons why this may be, with misconceptions (like exercising can cause the cord to wrap round the baby’s head) and outdated advice (such as if you weren’t active before being pregnant, you shouldn’t start) being primary factors.
But, medical research, scientific study and an increasing acknowledgement that exercise is great for mental health means attitudes are changing and those myths and misconceptions are finally being eroded.
“The babies of exercising pregnant women have been shown to be born with more mature brains”
Words from the top
Guidance from the UK's Chief Medical Officer now encourages all pregnant women (except those with contraindications) to gradually start becoming active while pregnant, with those already active before pregnancy advised to keep going. It’s important to listen to your body and adapt your exercise if necessary, but the benefits of physical activity are becoming increasingly apparent.
Benefits for you
Contemporary research has demonstrated wide-ranging psychological benefits of exercise for women during pregnancy, which can actually aid the expectant mother in helping to navigate the range of emotional challenges that pregnancy can bring.
For starters, engaging in exercise during pregnancy has been shown to have positive effects on women's well-being and quality of life, including reducing feelings of fatigue and the negative feelings of sadness and anxiety. Exercise during pregnancy has also been shown to be positively associated with reduced depressive symptoms.
But here's where it gets really interesting, these positive benefits aren't just limited to the mother.
“Exercise during pregnancy has been shown to reduce feelings of fatigue”
Benefits for baby
Contemporary research is now suggesting that a pregnant mother can transfer the psychological benefits of exercise to her offspring. This modern research is showing that regular physical activity during pregnancy positively impacts the brain of the unborn fetus.
Compared to the newborns of mothers who were inactive during their pregnancy, the children of exercising pregnant women have been shown to be born with more mature brains. In addition, recent research from animal studies have demonstrated that exercising pregnant rats give birth to pups that have better memory and spatial learning as well as increased synaptic density.
Rightly, its not all up to mum…
Benefits for dad
Physical activity has been shown to have a beneficial impact on sperm fertility, with an active lifestyle enhancing the fertility status of men.
Therefore, the best way to help the next generation may be for both dad and mum to be active before conception and throughout the pregnancy.
Find out more about Jessica Ennis-Hill's Jennis Pregnancy workout app