Exercises for pregnant women have proven to have many benefits. Women who exercise during pregnancy report having:
Exercising also helps prevent or minimize common problems, such as back and hip pain, strained ligaments, constipation, prolapsed organs and incontinence resulting from stress on the musculoskeletal system.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the following guidelines for exercise during and after pregnancy:
Consult your obstetrician or midwife about your exercise program both prior to and during your pregnancy.
Strengthen Your Muscles
The two major sets of muscles to work on when you're pregnant are:
To strengthen abdominal muscles, do "curl-ups," a modified sit-up done to a maximum of 45 degrees off the floor, with knees bent and the back of the waist flat on the floor. (Avoid this exercise after the first trimester.)
To strengthen pelvic-floor muscles, use Kegel exercises in all positions: lying down, standing, squatting or sitting. Start by tightening and holding the muscles around the vagina for five seconds as if you were trying to stop urinating, then releasing them. Work up to 10 squeezes, 10 times per day for a total of 100. (Avoid doing this exercise while lying down after the first trimester.)
Stretch Your Muscles
During pregnancy, some muscles are typically tight and should be stretched:
The following sports are generally considered safe for women who have a normal, low-risk pregnancy: walking, swimming, low-impact aerobics, stationary bicycling, jogging (if you jogged before pregnancy) and tennis (played moderately). How and how much you exercise depends on your fitness level and general health during pregnancy.
Be Careful If …
Avoid strenuous exercise during your pregnancy if any of the following risk factors exist:
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Prenatal yoga can help you release stress and discomfort while teaching breathing and relaxation techniques that can be helpful during delivery.