Exercise and pregnancy: information for practice nurses
Practice nurses are equipped to care for patients with long-term conditions such as diabetes, asthma and obesity. Therefore, says Clare Gordon, they are well placed to advise pregnant women on common physical activities they may undertake to maintain health and wellbeing
It has long been recognised that regular physical activity and exercise enhance both physical and psychological wellbeing. The benefits of physical activity throughout the life span of an individual cannot be underestimated and it is no less important when a woman is planning to become, or is, pregnant. The World Health Organization (2010) note that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality and is attributed to 6% of deaths globally. This article explores the guidance for physical activity for the general population and how it then relates to the guidance available for women who are pregnant. This article considers some of the key benefits to a range of common physical activities that pregnant women may undertake. It also explores some of the information that practice nurses should be aware of and how physical activity may impact on several long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and obesity.
Keeping physically fit and active is recognised globally as an effective way in which to prevent many chronic medical conditions (Warburton and Bredin, 2016). Indeed, this is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) (2018) which states that physical activity reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, various cancers including colon and breast cancer, as well as having an impact on an individual's mental health. It also increases bone density, builds muscle strength and increases flexibility (Chui et al, 2018) In addition, the Department of Health (2011a) recognises that being regularly physically active helps to maintain a healthy weight, helps an individual to be able to perform everyday tasks without being impeded and improves self-esteem and mental health. Chui et al (2018) recognised the importance of a holistic approach to physical activity involving both endurance exercise for cardiovascular health; strength and flexibility activities for healthy bone density, and good musculoskeletal health; and body awareness and mindfulness during exercise to aid stress reduction and injury prevention.
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