The benefits of exercise during pregnancy
Exercise does wonders during pregnancy. It boosts mood, improves sleep, and reduces pregnancy aches and pains. It also prepares you for childbirth by strengthening muscles and building endurance, and makes it much easier to get back in shape after your baby’s born.
The ideal workout gets your heart pumping, keeps you limber, manages weight gain, and prepares your muscles without causing undue physical stress for you or the baby.
The following activities are usually safe for expectant moms, although some of them may not work for you during the last few months of your pregnancy. Make sure you consult your healthcare provider before embarking on any exercise regimen.
- Walking: One of the best cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women, walking keeps you fit without jarring your knees and ankles. It’s also easy to do almost anywhere, doesn’t require any equipment beyond a good pair of supportive shoes, and is safe throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
- Swimming: Healthcare providers and fitness experts hail swimming as the best and safest exercise for pregnant women. Swimming is ideal because it exercises both large muscle groups (arms and legs), provides cardiovascular benefits, and allows expectant women to feel weightless despite the extra pounds of pregnancy.
- Low-impact aerobics: One good thing about an aerobics class is that it’s a consistent time slot when you know you’ll get some exercise. And if you take a class for pregnant women, you’ll enjoy the camaraderie of other moms-to-be and feel reassured that each movement is safe for you and your baby.
- Dancing: You can get your heart pumping by dancing to your favorite tunes in the comfort of your own living room, with a DVD, or at a dance class, but steer clear of routines that call for leaps, jumps, or twirls.
Flexibility and strength
- Yoga: Yoga can help maintain muscle tone and keep you flexible with little if any impact on your joints. But you may have to augment a yoga regimen with walking or swimming several times a week to give your heart a workout.
- Stretching: Stretching is wonderful for keeping your body limber and relaxed and preventing muscle strain. Add stretching to your cardiovascular exercises to get a complete workout.
- Weight training: If weight training is already part of your exercise routine, there’s no reason to stop, although most women should reduce the amount of weight they’re lifting (you can do more repetitions to ensure that you’re still getting a good workout). If you take the necessary precautions and use good technique (meaning slow, controlled movements), weight training is a great way to tone and strengthen your muscles.