If you are pregnant or have gestational diabetes you’re probably wondering how you movement and pregnancy are related. You may also be wondering how you can use exercise and movement to manage your blood sugars and support your health. While movement can help with blood sugar management, there are so many other reasons to move your body (that may actually make you more motivated to move) as well as ways to fit in movement no matter your schedule. Keep reading to learn how movement can impact your overall health, how you should move in pregnancy, AND learn which type of movement is best for you.
Table of Contents
Before we dive in, I encourage you to take a look back at our previous intuitive eating blogs. This post is coming in at #9 which means there are 8 steps prior to this one to go back and read! You can find them here.
Movement and Blood Sugars
If you have gestational diabetes (GD) or are trying to avoid GD you’ve probably thought more movement and exercise = better blood sugars, right? This may not actually be the case.
Research has shown that doing some movement within 30 minutes of eating can help keep your blood sugars more stable after meals AND help with fasting numbers. We like movement! Although, if it feels like exercise is becoming a chore or something you “have” to do after a meal, it may be time to shift your perspective.
When it comes to blood sugar management, becoming obsessed with exercise, exercising too much, or doing too intense of an exercise can actually have the opposite effect you are looking for. This is just one reason I like to reframe exercise as “movement”. There is no right or wrong way to move your body, but it is important to evaluate your intentions.
Looking beyond blood sugar management, movement in pregnancy can be a great way to:
- Release stress
- Connect with your changing body
- Prepare for labor
- Improve your sleep
- Relief those aches and pains
Focusing on these other lifestyle factors can actually have a greater impact than just hitting the gym for an hour a day! Sleep, stress, etc. can all impact your blood sugar levels. Consider that the next time you’re exhausted but are forcing yourself to workout!
As we dive in and find movement that is best suited for you and your life, I encourage you to reflect and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my current relationship with movement and exercise like? Does it just feel like a way to burn calories? Do I dread it? Does it feel like a chore?
- Is there anything I do now, or have done in the past, that I know I enjoy?
- How has your relationship with movement changed since getting pregnant or having GD?
- What are some benefits that I can focus on outside of blood sugar management or physical changes? (reference the list above for ideas)
Now that you have those written down or in mind, let’s talk about how you can improve your relationship with movement- even in pregnancy!
Finding movement you enjoy
Finding movement you actually enjoy can greatly increase your chances of actually doing it and staying consistent. As you start to consider what you may enjoy I want to remind you that there is no “this counts and that doesn’t”. You may actually be surprised what can be considered movement!
Here are a few ideas to help you start to expand that definition of movement:
- Cleaning your house
It can also be helpful to consider what environment and structure you enjoy most. Do you like to move your body alone? With a friend? In a class structure? Indoors or outdoors? Knowing what you are most likely to enjoy can help inform your routine and schedule.
For example, if you like to chat while you move or it helps the time pass, why not ask a friend to talk with you twice a week or even find a therapist that will do walk-and-talk (you can actually walk while you have the session either in person or on the phone)!
If you like to be alone and use movement as a calm time to connect with your body, maybe you want to just get out a mat and do some stretching before the kids wake up.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and switch up what you’re doing- especially if you start to feel yourself dreading it or getting bored. The great thing about using movement for joy and connection rather than punishment and control is that there aren’t rules! You get to do what feels best to you on any given day, and the relationship between movement and pregnancy may evolve as you get closer to your due date.
Finding time for movement on a busy schedule
There are a variety of reasons we may have trouble finding time for movement throughout our day (kids, work, errands, family obligations, travel). If you are in a season of not having much time, or even just have days that are busier than others, these tips can be a great way to help you move your body from wherever- whenever!
If there is little to no spare time in your schedule right now, consider trying things like:
- Breaking up your movement into 5-10 minute sections. Maybe you want to move 30 minutes today but don’t really have the time. What if you went for a 10 minute walk on your lunch break, did 10 minutes with the kids after school, and walked on the treadmill for 10 minutes after they go to bed? It doesn’t have to look “perfect”!
- Do some body weight movement while you make your coffee (maybe you do a couple squats or simply stretch)
- Get in some movement while you brush your teeth (maybe some calf raises or lunges)
- Get on the floor and do some stretches while you watch TV or stretch before you get out of bed in the morning
The goal is not to become obsessed with movement and have to fit it into every moment of your day, we just want to be more intentional and move our bodies in small ways when we can!
Another great tip for fitting in movement on a busy schedule is to make it a non-negotiable (easier said than done, I know lol). But simply adding it to your calendar or time blocking and making sure you include time for movement can be a great way to do this. If you struggle to have structure or make yourself follow-through on movement, joining a class can be a great measure to take. That way all you have to do is show up!
Try to remember that you deserve to take care of you! Your mind, body, and baby will thank you for putting in the time to prioritize your well-being and health.
Exercise safety in pregnancy
What if I told you that the advice to “not let your heart rate get too high in pregnancy” is actually a myth?? While everyone should be safe and watch their heart rate when doing intense exercise, pregnant people don’t have to try to keep theirs lower (unless your provider has told you otherwise). Generally it is recommended to get about 150 minutes of light to moderate exercise a week (this breaks down to about 30 minutes 5 days a week).
If you’re wanting to be safe in pregnancy it can always be helpful to look up “pregnancy safe” variations of certain forms of movement, but overall you’ll be able to do all the same things you did when you weren’t pregnant (it may just not be as comfortable).
One thing to note is that certain higher-intensity exercises like running and jumping may be hard on your pelvic floor in pregnancy, so be sure to pay attention to what feels best and consult your provider if you have any concerns.
Above all I want you to remember that movement is not a punishment for what you ate or a way to control our bodies. It should be used as a celebration and way to improve so many aspects of our health. If you are pregnant I encourage you to take it slow and be gentle with yourself. You may not want to move every day and that’s okay! But also being mindful about getting in a short walk when you can or even going to a pregnancy yoga class can make all the difference in your mood and energy.
If you’re looking for more support and guidance in pregnancy or with your gestational diabetes diagnosis, I’d love to help! I am a doula and intuitive eating dietitian who is passionate about providing weight-inclusive, empowering care to pregnant people that need it! Book a free discovery call here to learn more about my services and how I can help!