Fitness For Two: Best Exercises During Pregnancy
Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean you need to forfeit your active lifestyle. In fact, regular, moderate physical activity during pregnancy can increase energy, stamina, and help prepare your body for labor. Research shows that healthy women who exercise during pregnancy have less risk of preterm delivery, are less likely to need pain relief, and are able to recover from childbirth faster. The benefits extend to the baby as well. Babies of active moms tend to have a healthier birth weight, lower heart rates, and less complications than babies whose mothers are sedentary.
The right exercises can help ease common pregnancy complaints like back pain, body aches, and sleep troubles, in addition to boosting energy and stamina. The key is to choose the right exercises to keep you fit, comfortable, and help maintain a healthy weight for you and your baby. Your physicians at Women's HealthFirst will be happy to discuss this with you and answer any questions you have.
Swimming is one of the best exercises for pregnant women because it is gentle on your joints, muscles, and can provide relief to swollen appendages like ankles and feet. Plus, you'll feel light in the water even with your belly the size of a beach ball.
Yoga is a great way to strengthen core muscles, ease back pain, and help you breathe and relax, which research shows may make labor shorter and more comfortable. Avoid "hot yoga", Bikram, and lying on your back after the first trimester. Instead, opt for a prenatal class, which is gentler on the body and focuses on relaxation, a good prep for labor.
Cycling is a great way to stay in shape and take a (much needed) load off your legs. Spinning is a good, low-impact way to boost your heart rate and stay toned without stressing your joints. Plus, as your belly swells, you can adjust the handle-bars to stay comfortable despite your ever-changing body.
Light strength training can help you stay toned before and after giving birth. If you were lifitng weights before you became pregnant, feel free to continue as long as you take it slow and easy and don't over-exert yourself. Always make sure to avoid heavy weights or routines that require you to lie flat on your back. If you weren't strength training before, it's probably best to find another exercise for now.
Whether it's on a trail, treadmill, or just around the block, walking is one of the easiest, safest ways to tone your muscles, stay active, and improve your mood. Walking is also something that can be done right up to delivery. Try walking a semi-swift mile three days a week for starters, and gradually increase your time and speed a little each week as you get stronger.
Aerobics is a great way to keep your heart strong, your muscles toned, and yourself feeling good. For a boost of energy and endorphins, try a low-impact, lower-intensity aerobics class taught by a certified professional to suit your needs and keep you feeling fit and strong throughout your pregnancy.
Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles that help hold up your uterus, bladder, and bowels, easing the impact of labor and delivery. Plus, the great thing about Kegels is that you can discreetly do them anytime, anywhere. Just squeeze your pelvic muscles as if you're trying to stop urinating or passing gas. Hold for five seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times, five times a day.
Limit High-Intensity Sports
If you regularly run, play tennis or participate in other high-intensity activities, you don't need to stop completely, but you may want to scale back on your routine. As your due date gets closer, make sure to run on flat, smooth surfaces to reduce impact and avoid falls. Since pregnancy increases your risk of joint injuries, steer clear of exercise that requires jerking, bouncing, sudden changes in body position or other high impact movements.
Remember to avoid overheating, as well as saunas and hot tubs, which may increase your baby's risk of birth defects, especially during the first trimester. Always drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after workouts.
And remember to listen to your body. If you feel hot, short of breath, or tired, take a break, let yourself cool down and take it easier next time.
Exercising during pregnancy can help you maintain a healthy weight, boost energy and self-esteem, reduce the risk of birth complications, and keep you feeling good mentally and physically. Plus, getting into good exercise habits now will make it much easier to lose that baby weight later. Low-impact activities like walking is not only convenient and a great way to get started, but is something you and your baby can do together, making it the perfect post-birth activity.
[image via WebMD]