Once you find out you’re pregnant, you may tend to treat your body more like a fragile eggshell – wary of any activity that could cause it harm. While it’s true that you’ll take extra special care of yourself and your developing baby over the next eight to nine months, it’s also true that getting regular, mild- to moderate-exercise is one of the best things you can do for your baby!
Exercise is perfectly safe for most expecting mothers
The good news is that not only is mild- to moderate exercise good for you and your baby, your physician will fully support your mission. In a perfect world, women (expecting or not!) would get at least 30-minutes of exercise per day. However, even 20-minutes of exercise three- to four times a week is beneficial.
Physical activity provides all kinds of bonuses for pregnant women, including:
· Increased blood flow. This gets oxygen to you and your baby. Circulating blood also keeps fluids (of which you’ll be pumping extra due to extra blood volume and amniotic fluid) moving through your entire body, helping to eliminate them. This minimizes retained fluids, keeping them from pooling in tired feet and ankles.
· Relief from common pregnancy ailments. It may seem counterintuitive but all that extra movement also helps some of the most common pregnancy complaints, including morning sickness, aches and pains, low energy levels and trouble sleeping.
· Preparing you for labor. Your body has a big job to do when it’s time to birth your baby. Getting and/or keeping fit now pays off in terms of increased stamina and strength once you’re in labor.
· Prevents or helps gestational diabetes.
Just make sure to exercise safely
The key to healthy pregnancy exercise is making sure you exercise safely. If you are an extreme athlete (marathon, cyclist, climber, etc.), you play contact sports or you participate in activities that are considered risky in general – speak with your physician about what’s allowed and what’s not while you’re pregnant. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or are expecting multiples, seek professional medical guidance as to what “safe” means for you.
For healthy pregnant women, the following are some of the best forms of exercise:
Prenatal yoga or pilates
Prenatal yoga or pilates classes, taught by certified professionals, pack a powerful punch for pregnant women. They’ll increase your strength, balance, flexibility, and stamina – all of which are important as your body goes through rapid changes and prepares for labor. Cara from Hot Mama Pilates is a certified instructor that will help your body be fit before and after the birth of your baby.
Another benefit of any prenatal classes is that you’ll meet other pregnant women, the beginning of seeking the support you’ll want and need once the baby arrives.
Walking or jogging
Walking and jogging are both good for you. However, experts recommend that if you haven’t been running consistently leading up to your pregnancy, now isn’t a good time to start. In that case, just stick with comfortable-working-up-to-brisk walks.
Gyms are great, and sometimes the treadmill is the only option due to work and life schedules. However, try to get outside whenever you can as fresh air, beautiful scenery and Mother Nature augment you physical wellbeing via stress reduction and improved moods.
Most health clubs and swim centers offer some type of water exercise classes. Some are led by instructors in the form of water jazzercise or water aerobics, or you can simply swim laps, tread water and use the kickboards. Either way, exercising in water seems heaven-sent as your belly gets bigger and bigger; what often feels cumbersome and awkward on land moves effortlessly and gracefully in the water.
Yes, you can ride your bicycle – but it isn’t the safest exercise form when pregnant. For one thing, falling off your bike or being struck by a passing motorist can have a devastating outcome. Also, once your tummy begins to bulge beyond the 4- to the 5-month range, you’ll have a harder time balancing securely – not to mention getting comfortable – on a bike seat and two wheels.
Enter the stationary bicycle; it’s safe, it’s an all-weather machine (since you use it indoors) and you can use it from the beginning to the end of your pregnancy. If you purchase a home model, look for one with an extra wide and cushy seat, so it’s comfortable for all nine months.
Additional tips for safe and comfortable pregnancy exercise
Always listen to your body – and honor its signs and signals. Now that a baby is in tow, you may get hotter, out of breath or tire faster than normal, and that’s okay. Slow down and resume exercising when you feel ready.
The following will also ensure you have a better and safer workout:
· Speak with your doctor to ensure your current pregnancy diet and caloric intake are sufficient for your pregnancy and the type/regularity of your exercise program.
· Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.
· Finish your meal or snack at least one hour before exercising to minimize tummy discomfort, nausea and heartburn.
· Exercise on flat, level surfaces.
· Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes designed for the exercise you’re doing. Don’t be surprised if you need to size up a half- or full-size later on as feet can grow (aka spread out a bit) during pregnancy.
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