New Year, New Ways to Think About Exercise

New Year, New Ways to Think About Exercise

At the Madison Birth Center—open to pregnant and nonpregnant women alike—the midwives focus on holistic healthcare and “fitness and exercise play a major role,” according to Lisa Richards, a certified nurse midwife.

Years ago, pregnant women were cautioned to avoid activity. Today, the opposite is true.

“Exercise in pregnancy is not only healthy,” says Richards, “it’s in fact associated with really good pregnancy outcomes.” Exercise can reduce the incidence of preterm births as well as interventions in labor and birth. It makes C-sections less likely and may make for shorter labor.

Yoga especially helps with flexibility and joint stability, and certain poses can even be used to reposition a breech baby. Each woman has individual health needs and risks, so she should always check with her health care provider before starting or modifying a fitness routine. Of course, any potential trauma to the abdomen should be avoided, but walking, swimming and even jogging are now known to be beneficial
in pregnancy.

“Maintaining good physical fitness can help with back pain, sleep disruption and energy level, as well as psychological and emotional well-being,” says Richards. “Exercise can be a great source of stress relief and a way to feel good about yourself.”

Weight gain—the obsession of so many pregnant women—can be a gauge of certain red flags but it’s not the be-all and end-all. It’s so important to gain enough; it’s even more crucial to not become preoccupied with weight. If you are, the midwives at Madison Birth Center may have you avoid the scale altogether.

“Although tracking fitness, nutrition and weight gain is important to us, if it’s going to cause emotional discomfort or stress then that’s not healthy, either,” says Richards. “We want to focus on overall health and well-being.”

It’s one thing to trudge your way into the gym and line up for the treadmills—and quite another to twirl and leap your way into a happy, blissful state. In both cases you’re burning calories. Why not have a blast doing it?

“I think most of the time our students don’t even realize how hard they’re working or that they’re doing something healthy for themselves, because they’re having so much fun doing it,” says Peter Goethche, owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Madison.

According to Goethche, “Dancing has been rated the second best form of exercise when comparing both positive and negative affects to the human body.” Dancing strengthens the cardiovascular system, increases flexibility, strength and balance and is especially effective because it triggers so many different muscle systems at once. Latest research shows the key to real results is mixing things up and keeping your body surprised, and dancing is the perfect way to do so.

It also has added benefits for emotional health. For people with body image issues, Goethche says he’s seen it time and again the way students get comfortable in private lessons, eventually losing themselves in dancing and shaking all that baggage away. In addition to classes, fifty to seventy people from couples enjoying date night to singles and friends cutting loose gather every Friday night to practice and socialize at weekly dance parties. And all any of us needs to do is watch one episode of  “Dancing With the Stars” to see just how much fun can be had while dancing.

“Do we teach you how to dance? Yes, but that’s secondary,” says Goethche. “More than that, we are giving people confidence and getting them healthy.”