The Surprising Benefits of Swimming
When you think of swimming, you might remember lazy days splashing around the pool as a child. Or if you already have children, the thought of the pool might even have the negative connotations of getting everyone together, fighting the crowds, and baking in the sun. While both of these may be accurate representations of swimming, they don't have much to do with swimming while pregnant.
Swimming is a favorite form of exercise for pregnant women for a variety of reasons. It provides you with a great cardiovascular workout and exercises the majority of your muscle groups. Many women enjoy the feeling of floating and taking stress off their bones and joints. Others enjoy the cool feelings they have while in the pool, even during the colder months. Some just find the water relaxing.
Overall, swimming is an excellent way to stay physically and mentally fit during your pregnancy. Swimming also offers the added benefit of being readily available to all fitness levels.
When you are in water, you feel much lighter than on the land. For example, 150 pounds feels like it weighs about 15 pounds while submerged. This feels great when you're sporting the extra pounds of pregnancy!
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Swimming is one of the few exercises that you can do during pregnancy, even if you have not been a frequent exerciser prior to pregnancy. This is good news for you if you've not previously been swimming, or if your overall fitness level is not as high as you'd like it to be. You can start by swimming easily for 20 minutes a day. Do this three to four times a week.
Being pregnant can cause a variety of weight-related problems, particularly when it comes to your joints and bones. While in water, you feel lighter and do not have as many concerns with the bumping and jarring of being on land. The more pregnant you become, the more relaxin (a hormone secreted by the placenta and the lining of the uterus) your body releases. While this is of great benefit during labor, when you want your pelvis to move more freely, it can cause a variety of aches and pains during pregnancy.
The buoyancy of the water allows you to move around freely. Many pregnant women report feeling lighter and more limber while in water. This beneficial aspect can help make your workout easier, not to mention its effect on pain relief! Buoyancy also helps protect you from injury due to exercise.
You can also use the buoyancy of the water to provide resistance for your workouts. Using the water to ease your workouts and increase the difficulty can take some time, so just get used to the feel of the water first, if you're not used to exercising in the aquatic environment.
Being in the pool also aids with your posture. It's easier to be upright in the pool. Maintaining proper positioning of your body will help alleviate and prevent some problems associated with pregnancy. The water also acts as a massage agent by exerting force on your body and massaging your muscles as you move around.
Being in the water does require some balance. This is something you may struggle with during pregnancy. However, in the water you're not as likely to fall and injure yourself as you may be on land. This adds difficulty to the workout while still allowing you to exercise your balance and work on improvements.
Just as when you were a kid, swimming or even being in water can leave you physically exhausted. While you may feel exhausted on a general basis, this form of exhaustion and relaxation is more conducive to sleeping than general pregnancy exhaustion.
We know that exercising helps pregnant women and others get more rest at night. Exercising in water has this same benefit. In addition, exercise in water offers the added benefit of feeling less weighed down by the added weight of pregnancy; others are simply more relaxed in water.
Beginning at about 28 weeks of gestation, babies will start to move into a head-down position. Babies are breech about 3 to 4 percent of the time at your due date. If your baby is still breech at your due date or before, you can try exercises and even external version (manually turning baby, done by your practitioner) to turn the baby head down. If these attempts are unsuccessful, most practitioners recommend a cesarean birth.
Ah, here's a great benefit that many people do not know about. If you have blood pressure problems, particularly while pregnant, simply being in shoulder-deep water can help decrease your overall blood pressure. This is due to increased circulation and relief from swelling. There is also a decrease in the associated risks of high blood pressure.
Some studies indicate that you can use a pool and water to help turn a breech baby, or a baby that is not in a head-down position. The methods to do this are varied. One involves the pregnant woman doing handstands in water that comes up to the top of her thighs. The other is having her dive into the pool. Apparently, these exercises are supposed to help turn a breech baby. However, always check with your doctor or midwife before doing these types of exercises.