It's not new news that exercise can help control weight gain during pregnancy, but a new study at Iowa State University shows that exercise alone may not be the simple solution. The study showed that a sedentary lifestyle may be the bigger culprit in excessive pregnancy weight gain, a condition that threatens the health of both mother and baby. You may be thinking that those two are the same: a lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle; but the fact is that many of us lead sedentary lives most of the time, even if we dedicate 30 minutes a day to a workout. This study showed that pregnant women spend 75 percent of their waking hours in sedentary activities. In other words, those 30 minutes a day may not be enough to counteract 11 hours of sitting.
Keeping your pregnancy weight gain in the healthy range is important for lowering maternal risk factors for complications such as hypertension , gestational diabetes , and preeclampsia. Women who are active throughout the day are less likely to gain too much weight during pregnancy, even if they don't dedicate 30 minutes a day to exercise, the study showed. So if your work keeps you on your feet or you are busy chasing a toddler around, you are at an advantage for keeping your baby weight in check.
If you have a desk job and have to spend most of your day in a chair, you can implement a few simple strategies to help increase your activity level throughout the day:
1. Set an alarm. Stand up for 3 to 5 minutes every hour and walk a loop around your workplace or do some shoulder rolls and squats beside your desk. It relieves tension and makes you more productive in the end.
2. Take the stairs. Don't take the elevator if you can avoid it. If you work on the 20th floor, walk the first 6 or 7 flights, at least.
3. Park at the back of the lot. Don't drive around searching for the closest parking spot. Consciously choose to walk further.
4. Walk to lunch. Be sure to be on your feet during your lunch hour. Try to be active for at least 20 minutes of that hour. Even a lap around the parking lot with a coworker can make a big difference in your overall activity level.
5. Wear a pedometer. Quantify the steps you take to have a number to try to beat every day.
The recommendations for 30 minutes of exercise per day during pregnancy still stand, but that alone may not be enough if you lead an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. To stay healthy throughout pregnancy, try to boost your activity level throughout the day in addition to dedicated exercise time. To get in your half-hour per day, try a brisk walk in the morning or evening; make it social by inviting a friend. If that doesn't work for you, don't be afraid to try new things, like a quick and easy fitness video online.
How did you fit exercise into your busy schedule?