The artist of healing movement, Alice Madzsar, once said: “It is more difficult to regenerate than to build up a healthy, integrated body from scratch.” At FirstMed, this philosophy guides our prenatal program, part of which is prenatal exercise. One of our therapists, Angela Bencsik, sat down to give us some insight into the benefits of exercise during pregnancy.
Angela Bencsik: Changes during pregnancy influence the entire system, which has to be taken into consideration when exercising. During the special prenatal exercise sessions, moms-to-be learn movements that teach them correct posture, and they train and strengthen the muscles – especially the perineum – and joints that will be used most during the process of giving birth. I recommend the regular practice of targeted prenatal exercise to every healthy expectant woman. It decreases the discomfort experienced and reduces the risks of complications during the pregnancy and delivery. Moreover, it positively affects the operation of the digestive system, which helps avoid constipation. Regular stretching and strengthening exercises relieve back pain, muscle cramps, reinforce the circulatory system, and stimulate blood circulation to enhance one’s overall energy level. Also, healthy circulation in the veins helps eliminate oedema in the legs. Last but not least, the oxygen supply to the fetus also improves.
During our sessions we use fitballs because they are easy on the joints, safe, and not at all tiring. We always end the sessions with special relaxation, which is guided meditation with relaxing music. Relaxation is of immense help during those nine months in resting the parts of the body that are used most and harmonizing body and soul. It helps relieve stress, tension, anxiety, and mood swings. The breathing technique learned during the class will also be very useful during the birthing process. Expecting mothers will be extremely sensitive to every move of their unborn babies, which will enhance their relationships even before birth. Some studies suggest that children whose mother took relaxation classes during pregnancy will be more tranquil and balanced, and their mental and personality development will be faster as well.
My advice to every pregnant woman is that exercise become part of their routine, incorporating it into their schedules at least two or three times a week. It is important that they pay close attention to their own bodies and that they do not overexert themselves. They should avoid movements that involve abrupt motions, hops and jumps, and those that may involve loss of balance leading to a fall. If there is no complication in the pregnancy, I suggest the following activities:
- swimming (ideal, as it frees the joints of weight, it is good for the spine, moves the large muscle groups, and improves circulation)
- walking (one of the best cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women)
- Nordic walking (develops the postural muscles, takes a lot of weight off the lower limbs, helps decrease back pain)
The last two types of exercise are particularly enjoyable, as they can be performed outdoors in the fresh air, in groups, with your husband and/or friends, all of which further improve the expecting mother’s mood. If the mother creates harmony between her body, soul, and the surrounding environment, the baby will feel much better as well.
I feel fortunate as I am one of those people who love what they do. I chose to be a physical therapist so I can help people live a more fulfilling life, so I can use exercise as a therapy to cure those in need. Exercise has always been part of my life. I used to do gymnastics, dancing and skating. Now I swim and cycle. I like reading, too. My aim is to assist in maintaining and regaining the health of those patients and pregnant women who turn to me, using my experience of many years and my continuously developing professional knowledge.
I appreciate having the opportunity to work with the patients of FirstMed for more than ten years. My patients come from all over the world, thus I have the opportunity to assist with a variety of locomotor problems. Treating them is often a challenge, but with each new situation comes valuable experience.
I have been holding group prenatal exercise classes since 2002 at FirstMed. I put my heart into my work, and it would be my avocation if it wasn’t my vocation.
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This article appeared in our June, 2014 Newsletter.