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Exercise and Pregnancy

Exercise and Pregnancy

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 to 20 minutes at a time. These are some of the recommended exercises that you can do if you are pregnant.

Walking

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.

Swimming

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 new stomach.

Jogging

Heading out for a run is fine in moderation and if you did it regularly before your pregnancy. Jogging does present 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 riding or even 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: slow down if you can't comfortably carry on a conversation.

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. Weight lifting or any other exercise where you might be tempted to stand motionless for long periods can also decrease blood flow to the torso and head and cause blackout very quickly. Keep moving: change positions, or step back and forth.

When is doubt, ask your doctor.

Related Articles:

- Women's Fitness
- Fitness Program Targets New Moms

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. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.

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