How to look after your mental health during pregnancy with exercise

pregnant woman, health in pregnancy

There are many benefits of physical exercise during pregnancy, one of which includes having a really positive impact on your mental wellbeing. We all know pregnancy hormones can affect your mental health quite considerably, so why not try gentle exercise to keep your body and mind fit whilst you're busy growing the tiny miracle inside of you.

The benefits of exercise

Physical activity and exercise have many benefits. Working out stimulates chemicals that improve your mood and the parts of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Some more benefits of physical exercise include:

  •  Improved overall mood and wellbeing, even if you’re feeling generally okay 
  • Reduced risk of illnesses like heart and lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson's disease 
  • A better recovery process from illnesses and conditions, such as muscular conditions 
  • Increased chances of weight loss, which is good for your health overall and can help your self-esteem.

How exercise has an impact on your mental health

When you are exercising, you release the chemicals endorphins and serotonin into your body that work to improve your mood. By exercising regularly, you can reduce your stress levels and improve mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, both of which can be exacerbated when you are pregnant.

 Exercise opens many other opportunities that can have a positive impact on your mental health. It can cause you to get out into the world a bit more than you would perhaps have done. As you might take the decision to partake in outdoor training or classes, some fresh air and social interactivity can help reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation.

 There are some other great ways that exercise can positively benefit your mental health:

  •  Exercising can improve your sleeping patterns which, in turn, can improve your mood and reduce feelings of fatigue and exhaustion 
  • Exercise pumps blood to the brain which helps you think more clearly and process your thoughts in a more regulated manner
  •  Exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory, meaning that your memory levels will increase and allow you to stay more focused.

What exercises are good for pregnant women

Always take advice from your midwife or GP before starting an exercise routine, but popular exercises for pregnant women include:

  •  Walking 
  • Swimming 
  • Yoga
  •  Gentle aerobics
 By trying out a variety of workouts, you can find which exercises are right for you and your body and you can begin implementing these into your everyday routine.

Importance of rest and recovery for mental health

Pregnant or not, you need to incorporate appropriate rest and recovery to prevent causing yourself an injury from exercise. Make sure you cool your body down by stretching regularly, ensuring you get a good amount of sleep, or you could try using muscle recovery tools, such as a foam roller or massage gun.

 Foam rolling during pregnancy can actually help decrease fluid retention, which typically occurs during the third trimester. It’s most common in the mother’s feet, ankles, and legs. Try using it on your glutes, calves and feet leaves your muscles feeling divine.

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