Turning Pro Starts in the Womb
Every year in the United States, there are approximately 4 million births. The NCAA will tell you that out of that 4 million, most all of them will be going pro in something other than sports. Your child will need to have huge amounts of both talent and luck to make it into the big leagues.
That the odds are against young student athletes doesn’t stop most parents from contributing to an industry with revenues in the billions. Parents spend money to hire trainers, buy the best gear, or even start their kids a year late in school to gain a physiological advantage. Sporting goods are placed in young kids hands as early as 14 months old just to have a chance to play professional sports.
But what if that isn’t early enough?
Moms, it all starts with you. Your activity level and what you eat and drink during pregnancy is the foundation that your baby will rely on during their lifespan. There is no guarantee that your son or daughter won’t run into health issues later in life. But just like in sports, if you lack dedication and discipline during the developmental stages, the final outcome will always be in doubt.
The choices you make while pregnant have a huge impact on your baby's physical potential. [Photo credit: Jerry Lai on Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0]
Healthy Moms Raise Healthy Children
Healthy moms give birth to leaner, stronger, healthier, and smarter babies, who may even have better motor function, cardiovascular capacity, and a greatly reduced risk for obesity, diabetes, and other health challenges as adults. As a healthy and active mom, you demonstrate wholesome values and become a positive role model for your child to emulate as they grow older.
Before you begin exercising, always talk to your health care provider. During the first trimester, the fetus does not yet have the ability to regulate its own body temperature and is at the mercy of its mother’s. Exercising can dramatically increase body temperature which could lead to birth defects if left unchecked . Be mindful of the weather and be extremely cautious about exercising in hot conditions for longer periods of time. Drinking water throughout the day and during exercise will help you avoid the effects of dehydration and help the fetus escape hyperthermia. Even if you already fit, you still need 6-8oz of water for every 15 minutes of exercise.
The duration, type, and intensity of the exercise will affect your heart rate and body temperature, as well as that of the fetus. Whether or not prenatal exercise poses a risk to the baby lies in the differences between trained and untrained women. If a pregnant client has already been training regularly and continues to do so, their fetus will better adapt to the stresses of normal exercise.
However, when unfit women perform inconsistent intensities of training, this may cause problems. When unfit women exercise at high intensities, uterine blood flow decreases to the point where the fetus will experience a serious oxygen deficit. In this case, it is essential that any program includes more gentle exercises. If you typically get little or no activity, walking is a great exercise to start with. Walking is safe for almost everyone, it is easy on your body and joints, and it doesn’t require extra equipment. It is also easy to fit into a busy schedule.
Should You Exercise During Pregnancy?
With so much information and misinformation out there about fitness and pregnancy, how do you figure out what will be best for you? One of the best steps you can take is to find a doctor who understands and supports your desire to stay in shape and who will work with you throughout your pregnancy. Constant communication between you, your doctor, and your trainer is crucial if you want to continue your exercise program.
The benefits to the mother of continuing a fitness regimen through pregnancy are plentiful and can include a reduction in backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling, improved mood and energy levels, prevention of excess weight gain, and better posture. However, when your body is telling you to slow down or stop, make sure you listen.
A commitment to strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility programs during pregnancy not only provides benefits for the mother, but also for the baby. Regular aerobic exercise has the potential to improve the mental and physical health of children into adulthood by creating an optimal environment for both the mind and body of the fetus. Aerobic exercise during pregnancy also programs the arteries of offspring to be more resilient and efficient. By staying healthy and active during your pregnancy, you will reduce susceptibility to cardiovascular disease and heart disease for the lifespan of your child. Another study has shown other long term benefits for your child including:
- Increased oxygen supply
- Improved IQ and vocabulary until at least the age of five
- Boosted the heart health in later life.
Tips for Exercising While Pregnant
To avoid over-exertion while working out during a pregnancy, it is important to monitor your rate of exertion, or RPE. The RPE should be your guide instead of heart rate since there is no one “target” heart rate for every pregnant woman. Strength movements such as front squats and deadlifts can help maintain strong legs, core, and good posture. Be sure to utilize proper breathing patterns to reduce some of the intra-abdominal pressure.
A gymnastics movement called a hollow body will help strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and help alleviate back pain during pregnancy and labor. To perform a hollow body, lie on your back and bring your knees up over your hips to 90 degrees. Tilt your hips forward and pull your abdomen in. Your lower back should be pressed down hard onto the floor. Stay in this position for thirty seconds then relax without letting your lower back come off the ground. Repeat for 3 or 4 sets and work up to 90 seconds.
A nutritious, well-balanced diet is one of the best things you can do for your developing baby. There is no other time in your life where your daily eating habits will directly affect another person, so choose wisely. Incorporating vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean protein, and other sensible food choices establish the essential building blocks of growth and overall health for your child and will give your baby a strong start in life.
Having a healthy eating plan before pregnancy is ideal, but no matter how many weeks are left until your due date, it’s never too late to start. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help your baby get the nutrients he or she needs to grow at a healthy rate. It will also help you maintain your energy level, boost your immune system, and help prevent excessive weight gain during the pregnancy.
To give you a better idea of the types and amounts of food you may need during pregnancy, here is a list of the most essential nutritional items:
- Protein: Experts recommend 75 to 100 grams of protein per day. Protein positively affects the growth of fetal tissue, including the brain. It also helps your breast and uterine tissue to grow during pregnancy, and it plays a role in your increasing blood supply.
- Calcium: The daily requirement of calcium is around 1000 milligrams during pregnancy. Calcium helps your body regulate fluids, and it helps build your baby’s bones and tooth buds.
- Iron: In combination with sodium, potassium, and water, iron helps increase your blood volume and prevents anemia. A daily intake of 27 milligrams is considered ideal during pregnancy.
- Folate/Folic Acid: Folic acid plays a key role in reducing the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Experts recommend 600 to 800 micrograms (.6 to .8 milligrams) daily.
- Vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C will promote wound healing, tooth and bone development, and metabolic processes. Experts recommend at least 85 milligrams per day.
Set Your Future Athlete Up for Success
The evidence is overwhelming that a healthy and balanced lifestyle will lead to a healthy mom and baby. The enormity of the youth sports industry is just a small testament to how far a parent will go to help their child achieve their dreams. If your goal is to have a healthy child, one who could later pursue their dream of becoming a professional athlete, then it doesn’t start with handing them a baseball bat at age 2. It starts in the womb.
Pregnancy doesn't have to be a setback for your fitness: