A Guide to Safe Exercise During Pregnancy

Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean that you have to stop exercising.

Regular exercise during pregnancy not only gets you in shape for delivering your baby, recovering and getting your pre-baby body back, but will keep you healthy and feeling great throughout your pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that exercising during pregnancy can give you more energy, relieve leg cramps, constipation and bloating, increase muscle tone, help you sleep better and improve your mood.

It's important to keep safety in mind when exercising during pregnancy.

How Much Exercise Should a Pregnant Woman Do?
How much exercise you do during your pregnancy should depend on your general health, the state of your pregnancy, and how much you were exercising before your pregnancy.

Consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen, and let him know any changes in your exercise routine and if you feel any effects.

If you were very physically active before your pregnancy, you can continue your exercise program, with some modifications, during your pregnancy. If you were not physically active before, but want to exercise during your pregnancy, start slow and don't try to accomplish too much in too short a time.

Things to Keep in Mind for Safe Exercise During Pregnancy:

  • Pregnancy is no time to try to lose weight. Don't exercise to lose weight; exercise to stay healthy and in shape for your delivery and recovery.
  • A pregnant woman's center of gravity is different. Don't assume that you can do the same exercises in the same way you did before your pregnancy.
  • During pregnancy, your muscles, ligament and joints are more flexible and loose, so they are more susceptible to strains and sprains. Smooth, slow stretches and exercises are better than bouncy, jerky movements.
  • Regular, steady exercise at least three times per week is better than sporadic periods of exercise followed by no exercise.
  • Don't overexert yourself. Your heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute. If you cannot speak in a normal conversational way without huffing and puffing, stop exercising and slow down.
  • Take frequent breaks from exercises and keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during and after exercise.
  • When exercising with weights during pregnancy, avoid lifting weights above your head.  Don't use weights that can strain your lower back muscles, which are under strain during pregnancy.
  • Avoid contact sports, strenuous aerobics, and activities that can put the baby at risk, such as snow skiing, water skiing, scuba diving and horseback riding.
  • Always stretch before exercising. Start with a 5-10 minute warm-up and end with a cool-down of gentle stretching, breathing exercises and relaxation.

Recommended Exercises During Pregnancy:

  • Walking
  • Riding a stationary bike
  • Low-impact aerobics and water aerobics
  • Swimming
  • Calisthenics (stretching exercises and toning)
  • Kegel exercises
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