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How to Start a Safe Exercise Program While Pregnant

Katlyn Joy |25, February 2013


As your waistline begins bulging, you may regret not being in shape before becoming pregnant. However, it's not too late to start an exercise program. Gone are the days when pregnant women were afraid to do anything remotely strenuous or physical.

Exercise boosts your energy level, increases your cardio fitness, keeps the extra pounds from settling and staying put, and tones your muscles. These benefits will make labor easier and also help you recover from childbirth faster. Exercise can also help with other pregnancy concerns such as mood issues, insomnia and constipation.

So, you are pregnant and are ready to start exercising. Where do you begin? Always seek out your healthcare providers advice and warnings first.

Safety First

While exercise is safe for pregnancy, there are some things to keep in mind for safety's sake.

- Always heed your body's warning signs that something is too much for you, or something's wrong.

- Never work out in hot and humid weather. You become easily overheated and dehydrated during pregnancy and too high a body temp is dangerous for developing babies.

- Take breaks often and drink plenty of water.

- Do not lie on your back once you are past the 12 week mark as it restricts blood flow to the uterus.

- Do not attempt inverted poses or positions in Pilates or yoga.

- Be sure to exercise in areas free of obstacles and on a study and level surface. Avoid anything slippery or slick as you won't have good balance as you get further into your pregnancy.

- Make sure you have an elevated heart rate but not one that is extremely so. A good gauge is being able to talk but not excessively fast or loud. If you are truly out of breath, have trouble catching your breath, you are working too hard.

- Wear non-restrictive clothing and sturdy shoes that provide ample support and traction.

- Do not overstretch muscles as pregnancy hormones make injury a stronger possibility.

- Do not exercise in ways that can result in trauma such as contact sports, high impact aerobics, or where falls are possible.

Types of Exercise to Try During Pregnancy

Prenatal yoga and Pilates
Classes that are taught by instructors skilled with pregnant participants. Prenatal yoga and Pilates are excellent choices as they help tone and stretch, and help you build endurance. Pilates classes focus on your core, which is exactly where a pregnant woman's exercise focus should be. A potential problem is with all the mat work that involves lying on your back. You must skip those or use an angled spine support cushion commonly found in Pilates studios. Yoga also works your core and helps you to learn how to concentrate on your breathing and increase your calmness. This can be a big help in labor. Just avoid any positions that require you to have your feet over your head. Always avoid excessive twisting motions.

Swimming or pool aerobics are great because the water helps hold you and provides a cushioned environment for exercise. Just wear some swimshoes to avoid slipping and falling. Swimming is great exercise and the water will help prevent excessive strain on your joints.

Gym Workouts
Going to the gym provides you with some good options for a pregnancy work out. Try the treadmill, the elliptical and the stationary bike. Don't read the heart rate displayed on the machines because pregnancy really throws those off. You can even do some limited weight training. Don't lift over your head, lie on your back or use any machines that put weight or pressure on your tummy. At home, you can use small dumbbells to do squats, curls and other arm work.

Walking is probably one of the best and easiest of exercises to do while pregnant. You can continue with the workouts once you've recovered from childbirth with baby in a stroller. Start slow and gradually build your speed and distance.

5 ExerciseTips for Busy Pregnant Moms

Remember the Warning Signs

If you feel winded, feel lightheaded, feel like your heart is pounding too hard, or have cramping or bleeding you need to stop. If after resting, getting a drink of water and putting your feet up you don't feel better, seek medical attention to be safe. Listen to your body and remember it's your life and your baby's so it's always better to be safe than sorry.

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