Prenatal Yoga Offers Comprehensive Fitness During Pregnancy
The ACOG recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week for pregnant women. The majority of women (92%) in the CDC’s report, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), assessed physical activities during pregnancy from 1999 to 2006, know they should be evaluated by a health care professional before embarking on exercise during pregnancy. And though over 80% responded that exercise was beneficial before or during pregnancy, less than 23% of women met the guidelines of at least 150 min/weekly of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 75 min/week of vigorous intensity exercise. (Moderate intensity aerobic activity was defined as tasks that caused “light sweating or a light to moderate increase in breathing or heart rate.”)
As a result, the authors of the 2014 Yoga and Exercise during Pregnancy survey report a “considerable gap between knowledge about and reported practice of exercise during pregnancy.”
Most women that exercised at some level identified walking (41%) as their chief exercise, while yoga was only practiced by 6% of women. Yet, over 65% believed that yoga was considered beneficial.
Barriers to Exercise During Pregnancy
For some reason, expectant women believe fitness during pregnancy is important, but few end up pursuing regular exercise. It could be due to lack of access to exercise or exercise instruction, a lack of guidance (not knowing what is safe or what to do for exercise), a lack of knowledge about exercise, motivation, or a combination of all five. But whatever the reason, exercise is medicine, especially during pregnancy, and can help prevent and maintain a woman’s health during a most critical time.
One way to increase access to yoga and thus, improve exercise program adherence, is for health care professionals to include yoga as part of integrated care. The majority of women in the survey report they would be FAR more likely to participate in yoga if it was instructed by a licensed health care provider.
The authors report that future studies should focus on how to motivate women to stay physically active during pregnancy, and that yoga should be a chief focus of study. This study should serve as a catalyst for using integrated prenatal care in physical therapy and wellness settings since physical therapists are ideally suited to deliver yoga as prenatal mind-body care.
Yoga is an ideal method for promoting and achieving physical and psychological fitness during pregnancy, because it:
- Can be done anywhere
- Is low cost
- Is readily accessible
- Can be seamlessly integrated to improve physical therapy intervention
- Can simultaneously address both physical therapy and fitness needs
- Requires very little equipment
- Can be done as part of an independent home program
- Can be practiced by those with low and high risk pregnancy
- Affects systemic health (read: strength, endurance, flexibility) but the big ticket items yoga helps with includes epigenetic effects (read: genetic transcription for long-term health for mom and baby) and neuroendocrine regulation, the later of which can assist in stress management, weight management, hormone regulation, and other antenatal metabolic conditions such as gestational diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
A final important point in this study was that non-obese women demonstrated a more accurate knowledge of recommendations on exercise, with obese women more likely to believe they only needed exercise 2-3 times/week but for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
The use of yoga in prenatal care can offer a low-cost, viable, and readily accessible method of exercise that can affect short-term and long-term maternal and infant physical, psychoemotional, intellectual, spiritual, and energetic health, something exercise without a mind-body component cannot accomplish.
For Health Care Professionals:
Perinatal care in Ginger’s Yoga as Medicine for Pregnancy course is based on the biopsychosocial yogic paradigm, a holistic person-centered approach that is supported to have long-standing positive effects for mother and baby. Yoga can be used as more than meditation and relaxation, however; and Ginger shares yoga techniques that can be used for prenatal strength and conditioning, birth preparation and education, postpartum recovery and rehabilitation, and general fitness and wellness in the YPREG course. See Ginger’s recent posts on Why Every Expectant Mom Needs Yoga, Yoga in Physical Therapy Improves Postpartum Care, Yoga for Natural Childbirth.