Let’s talk about specific positive outcomes for the mother and baby when the mother engages in regular exercise during pregnancy. It should be noted that the exercise group for this study, the one which we will be talking about most, engaged in a minimum amount of exercise throughout their pregnancy. The exercise group had to maintain their exercise above 50 percent of their pre-pregnancy level. The exercise group also engaged in regular, weight-bearing exercise three days a week, for at least 20 minutes a session, at a moderately hard to hard level of perceived exertion.
Effects of Exercise on Breastfeeding
Does exercise affect a woman’s ability to produce milk? Does it affect the quality, and if so, would that slow infant growth? Apparently these questions had their origin in some studies that were conducted with cows. Dairy science research has shown that modest increases in physical activity decreased bovine milk production. However, studies done with humans have shown that frequent, sustained, moderate to high-intensity running during lactation does not impair the quantity or the quality of a woman’s breast milk. Only taste was altered when women engaged in extremely intense anaerobic exercise, such as interval workouts.
Some interesting information came about when looking at breastfeeding women who were both exercising and restricting caloric intake in the postpartum period. It was found that it’s OK to exercise, diet, and breastfeed so long as you aren’t losing weight faster than approx. 1 pound per week. Women who restricted their caloric intake below 1500 kcal per day experienced a decrease in milk production with resultant decreased infant weight gain. But in all, a sensible diet combined with regular exercise and breastfeeding resulted in postpartum weight loss that was approximately three times faster than in those who just ate to appetite.
In addition, it was found that continuing regular exercise and breastfeeding had no effect on infant weight, length, head circumference, or fat mass at one year. At age 5, the only difference was that the exercise babies were leaner than the babies from mothers who were not exercising.
Remember, pain-free first, then performance.
Knowing the facts is more important than listening to the opinions.
Always live life stronger.
*Michael Satterley is a doctor of physical therapy and the Director of Sports Therapy Programs at Tidewater’s Performance Center / Oyster Point Physical Therapy Clinic in Newport News.