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Exercise and Pregnancy

Congratulations, you’re expecting! Your immediate reaction is tears of joy and relief, but as the news sinks in you are suddenly overwhelmed with a wide array of emotions including fear and anxiety. Suddenly feeling like you are the only woman who’s ever been pregnant, panic takes over and irrational questions start pouring out of your mouth. Dr. Smith assures you that you are a healthy woman and you are more than capable of carrying your baby to term (and, no, if you slept on your belly last night you didn’t squish the baby) and recommends that you continue (or start) to exercise throughout your pregnancy. The notion of exercising during pregnancy baffles you (what if all that bouncing around causes brain damage?), but Dr. Smith explains that there are many important reasons to exercise during pregnancy and it’s more than just okay for a pregnant woman – it’s good for the baby too.

Exercise during pregnancy is one of the best ways to maintain fitness and prepare you for one of the most physically demanding events you will ever experience. It will enable you to control weight gain, improve posture, and decrease backache associated with pregnancy. It is also a natural way to decrease constipation, enhance psychological well-being, and enhance sleep at night. An added bonus – studies have shown that women who exercise during pregnancy also have an easier time regaining their pre-pregnancy figure.

If you are a healthy woman (having an uncomplicated pregnancy) your doctor will likely advise you to continue with your regular exercise program, while heeding to the following guidelines:

Do not get overtired

Do not exercise vigorously in hot or humid weather

Do not perform exercises while lying on you back after the first trimester

Do not perform exercises that employ the Valsalva maneuver

Do ensure that you warm-up prior to exercise and cool-down following exercise

Do ensure that you remain adequately hydrated

Do ensure that you consume an adequate amount of calories to compensate for those lost during exercise (as well as the extra energy needs of pregnancy)

Do ensure that, while exercising, you can carry on a conversation without getting out of breath

Do ensure that you discuss your exercise plan with your physician

Do ensure that you stop activity and consult your physician if any unusual symptoms appear

If you have not been exercising before pregnancy you should also adhere to the guidelines listed above, while also ensuring that you begin physical activity of low intensity and advance activity levels gradually. A 20 to 30-minute walk, 3 to 4 days per week, is a program that your doctor may recommend.

Whether you are a seasoned exerciser or new to an exercise plan, it is important that you listen to your body and adjust your exercise level accordingly. If exercising seems to require more effort, decrease the intensity and duration. If impact activities become uncomfortable as pregnancy progresses, switch to low- or no-impact activities such as walking, swimming, or stationary cycling.

Exercise during pregnancy is important and advantageous to both you and your baby. Fit moms will likely recover quicker and regain normal fitness activity levels in less time than the unfit. What are you waiting for? Talk to your physician, make an exercise plan, and get moving!