I have received several emails from women seeking guidance on exercising while pregnant. Consulting with the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, I verified the following little-known facts to the commonly asked question:
"I'm newly pregnant and could be in better shape. Is it safe to start an exercise program now?"
It's important to review your exercise plan with your doctor before you begin. Pregnancy isn't the time to try to start a rigorous routine. However, if you aren't in a high-risk pregnancy group, you can pursue an exercise program at a mild to moderate level. For beginners, exercise three days a week, preferably with a day between workouts, for 15-20 minutes at a time. These are some of the recommended exercises that you can do if you are pregnant.
This exercise is the best, and it is the perfect way to get started if you didn't exercise before pregnancy.
Low-impact aerobic classes
These classes have about the same benefits as walking, unless you perform some upper-body resistance workouts with dumbbells, too.
This is a great form of exercise since it uses many different muscle groups and puts less gravitational strain on your joints. Furthermore, the water supports your weight, giving your lower back a temporary reprieve from the strain from your newly expanding stomach.
Heading out for a run is fine in moderation, and if you did it regularly before your pregnancy. Jogging presents a greater risk for falling down, so take care.
Exercises you should avoid
High-risk sports and activities with a potential for hard falls, such as horseback or bike riding, are strictly off limits to pregnant women. Some other forms of exercise also need to be modified. For instance, ride a stationary bike instead of a real bike.
Keep your fitness regimen fun and safe
Don't exercise to exhaustion. A good rule of thumb is: Slow down if you can't carry on a conversation comfortably.
Be particularly careful to eat properly
Being pregnant means you need an additional 300 calories a day.
After the first trimester, avoid sit-ups and other exercises done while flat on your back; this can decrease the blood flow to the uterus. Weightlifting or any other exercise where you might be tempted to stand motionless for long periods also can decrease blood flow to the torso and head and cause you to black out very quickly. Keep moving, change positions or step back and forth.
When in doubt, ask your doctor.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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