There are many benefits that exercise provides to all individuals, but it provides even more to pregnant women. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercise during pregnancy can help prepare women for labor and childbirth. Exercising after pregnancy can help women get back in shape.
Women who were physically active before becoming pregnant, do not need to stop exercising during pregnancy. Though women who were notphysically active before becoming pregnant canexercise, they should start out more slowly and intensify their routine gradually. All pregnant women need to be careful about the type and intensity of exercise they choose.
Using the example of walking, the list below provides suggestions on how to progress through an exercise routine. Walking is a very beneficial exercise. It works and tones many different muscles, strengthens the heart, improves circulation, and increases mobility and flexibility. Walking is also a very safe exercise for pregnant women. There's a lower risk of becoming injured walking, as compared to other exercises. It can been done at any time of day (though safest during daylight hours), and it is a good exercise to start out with for individuals that were previously not active.
- Beginning an exercise session:Walk slowly for five minutes to warm up.
- At the end of each exercise session:After each exercise session be sure to cool down. Take the time to stretch your muscles. This will help your heart rate return to its pre-exercise rate, and help prevent your muscles from tightening up.
- The first week:Find a flat walking path, and walk at a slow pace. Try to walk a mile three days a week at the beginning, and keep track of the time it takes you to finish.
- After the first month:Each week add 2 extra minutes to your walk, and try to gradually increase your pace. To vary your routine, choose an alternate route, which will offer new scenery as well as different types of inclines. Avoid walking on uneven surfaces.
Below are tips specific to each phase of pregnancy:
- First trimester:Find a walking buddy to help motivate you. Make sure to wear appropriate shoes (anti-slip), use a good sun block and avoid walking in the sun at the hottest time of the day. Always carry a water bottle with you to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion which can be harmful to you and your baby.
- Second trimester:After the first trimester of pregnancy, women should not do exercises that require them to lie flat on their backs. Standing still for long periods of time should also be avoided. When walking, follow the same tips from the first semester and pay attention to your posture as you walk. Stay upright and move your arms as you walk to maintain your balance.
- Third trimester:Avoid uneven surfaces where you could risk falling. Don't go too far away from your house or from accessible places as your due date approaches.
- Post-pregnancy:Once your baby is born, continue exercising. This will help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight more quickly, as well as provide stress relief. After 4-6 weeks, you may consider taking your baby along with you on walks in a stroller or a baby carrier.
Be sure to stop exercising if you're tired or short of breath. Remember that the amount of exercise you should do depends largely on your pre-pregnancy physical condition.
Exercises other than walking that are appropriate during pregnancy include: swimming, cycling, and some types of aerobics classes. Avoid exercises such as downhill snow skiing, racquet sports, contact sports (such as ice hockey, soccer, and basketball), and scuba diving. These exercise are risky during pregnancy because of the the types of movements involved, or the danger of falling or getting hit.Be sure to talk with your health care provider before beginning any exercise program. Your health care provider can also give you personal exercise guidelines, based on your medical history and previous physical activity levels. It is NOT appropriate to try to lose weight during pregnancy. Do discuss any concerns you have about your weight with your health care provider.
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