While exercise may be the last thing on the mind of many pregnant women, since they often feel more tired and achy than normal, there are many reasons to continue or begin a fitness program.  As long as your doctor approves, moderate exercise can be incorporated into your routine most days of the week.  The health benefits of swimming make it an excellent choice for those who are seeking to find the best way to stay active during pregnancy.

Increase Endurance and Muscle Strength

Back pain and sciatica are common issues faced by women during the second half of their pregnancy.  They are caused by a number of factors including pressure on the spine from weight gain, loosening of ligaments that support the spine due to hormonal changes, and muscles separation as the uterus expands.  Since swimming strengthens abdominal and back muscles, it can help to alleviate discomfort.  Water provides resistance that makes it more challenging to move through than air, which forces the muscles to work harder, but the intensity of a workout can still be controlled by the swimmer. It also is a form of exercise that has virtually no impact on the spine, unlike running, tennis, and other activities that are harder on the joints and more likely to cause injury.

Another health benefit of swimming is that it can increase cardiovascular endurance while being easy on the body.  It is important for your health and that of the baby to maintain cardiovascular fitness, but some sports and other fitness routines may be too difficult or uncomfortable during pregnancy.  Swimming is a great option as it can be done more frequently, and pain and discomfort are not deterrents.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can put pregnant women at risk for a number of conditions heartburn, varicose veins, back pain, and fatigue as well as gestational diabetes, which is a dangerous condition.  Since swimming requires effort from the whole body, it is a good way to burn calories.  The faster you swim, the more calories you burn, but make sure to pace yourself and exercise at an intensity level that is safe and comfortable.

Improved Sleep

Even for women who have never experienced sleep issues previously, pregnancy can trigger disturbances ranging from trouble falling asleep to problems getting good quality rest.  In addition to factors such as muscle cramps and back pain, which contribute to overall discomfort, pregnancy hormones can be responsible.  The same hormones that make you feel tired during the day can keep you awake at night.  One of the health benefits of swimming is that it can help to regulate your sleep.  As an accessible form of exercise, swimming can be continued throughout most of the pregnancy, ensuring that you can benefit from aerobic activity during all three trimesters.

Enhanced Mood

Between physical changes and new emotions that may be triggered during pregnancy, moods can fluctuate in pregnant women.  While fluctuations are normal, there are steps that you can take to enhance your mood overall.  Swimming is considered a peaceful form of exercise that can promote feelings of relaxation and help to alleviate stress, making it a good tool to enhance mood.

Exercise in Moderation

Talk to your doctor about how many minutes per session and days per week you should exercise.  Generally 30 minutes is recommended most days of the week, but there are certain circumstances in which your doctor may not advise you to be this active. These include cervical or vaginal bleeding, being at risk for preterm labor, having heart or lung disease, and having high blood pressure.  Even if your doctor does approve moderate exercise, pay attention to your body and stop if you begin to experience symptoms such as bleeding, headache, dizziness, contractions, shortness or breath, or decreased fetal movement.  Make sure to contact your doctor.

The many health benefits of swimming make it an excellent choice for pregnant women provided that they have consulted with their doctor.  Swimming can increase endurance and muscle strength, control weight gain, improve your sleep, and enhance your mood, making it a great way to feel better throughout your pregnancy.