The old idea that a pregnant mom should stay still, and avoid physical activity as much as possible, is very far from the truth. Exercise during pregnancy is actually incredibly beneficial, both for you and for your baby. However, how strenuous your exercise should be will largely depend on how fit you were before your pregnancy started.
Exercise for the pregnant mom brings several very specific benefits. For a start, it strengthens and tones the muscles in your thighs, buttocks and back, preparing you for the physical challenges of labor and childbirth. Along with this, breathing correctly during exercise helps you learn to control your breathing, enabling you to manage pain better. Also, your joints can become loose during pregnancy because of hormonal changes, and exercise activates the lubricating fluid in your joints, thus helping to prevent joint wear and tear. Remember that you are not aiming to lose weight, but it will help you get back quickly to your pre-pregnancy shape after the birth.
So what forms of exercise should you be looking at? It should be exercise which keeps your heart rate up and your muscles toned, while avoiding any jarring, leaping or bouncing. There is wide agreement among health experts that the two top exercises for the pregnant mom are walking and swimming.
Walking is an exceptionally good exercise in pregnancy, because it keeps you fit, gives your heart a workout, and doesn’t jar your ankles and knees. It’s also an easy way to get started if you haven’t been in the habit of exercising before, and it’s something that can be continued right through the nine months. If you are just starting, begin with a slow walk, and build up gradually to walking briskly for 20-30 minutes most days.
Swimming is equally great for the pregnant mom, as it makes you use the two major muscle groups, the legs and arms. Like walking, it’s a great cardiovascular exercise, working your lungs and heart, but unlike walking, it enables you to feel completely weightless. This gives you a freedom of movement that you don’t find with any other form of exercise.
These are the two most highly recommended forms of exercise, but another that should benefit most expectant moms is low-impact aerobics. Low impact means no high kicks, running or jumping, and provided you stick to this, and keep one foot on the floor all the time, so as to minimize joint stress, it should be perfectly safe. Aerobic exercise is excellent, as it strengthens your lungs and heart, and helps maintain your muscle tone. You can use an aerobics DVD at home, or, better still, join a class for expectant moms.
If you can’t get to a class or find a DVD, you can gain a lot of the same benefits from dancing to your favorite music. The music helps you keep up your speed and rhythm, and the dancing keeps you supple, while toning your muscles and keeping your heart rate going. The same precautions apply as for aerobics — no jumping, twirling or sudden changes of direction.
A very important factor for any pregnant mom in choosing your exercise is that it should be something you enjoy, otherwise you won’t stick to it. You should aim for 2.5-3 hours per week, in 30-minute daily chunks, but stop at once if you feel dizziness, shortness of breath or heart palpitations. And most important of all, before you start any exercise program, talk to you health care provider, and be sure you get the right advice for your situation.