A mild to moderate level of prenatal physical activity helps maintain cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular fitness, while providing mental and emotional benefits. However, because your body is going through constant changes throughout your pregnancy, your pregnant fitness regime should reflect these changes.
There are physical changes that occur in a pregnant womans body, some exercise or activities may not be the best choice for you and your baby at this time. Now is not the time to lose weight or begin a vigorous exercise routine but, you can pursue or maintain a consistent exercise regime throughout your pregnancy. The key to reaping the full benefits of safe pregnancy exercises is to modify your exercise program in order to make it safe.
The goal of exercising during this period is to maintain your present level of fitness, not to improve it. Keep in mind that because you are pregnant you should:
1. Consult your physician, doula or midwife.
2. Whether it is a class or one-on-one training, choose an instructor that is specifically trained in working with pregnant women. Be sure they know how to modify the routine for your changing body.
3. Exclude ALL flexion of the torso starting from the second trimester. ie: sit ups, roll ups, crunches…
4. Be sure to incorporate kegel exercises into your routine. Regular exercise of the pelvic floor muscles maintains tone and improves circulation.
5. Be sure to stay well hydrated and not get overheated.
6. Incorporate a warm up period before you start, being sure to include gentle stretching. This period helps your heart rate increase slowing. Finish with a cool down period. This time gives your heart a chance to return to its normal rate slowly. Stretching your body gently before and after exercise can help you avoid soreness. However, avoid stretching too far as your joints and ligaments are loose and vulnerable while pregnant.
7. Use a stability ball instead of sitting on the floor. The ball is a comfortable way to exercise, its easy on your joints, it helps strengthen the abdominals and postural muscles, tones the pelvic floor, improves overall circulation and you can use it as a labor and delivery tool.
8. Exclude activities that increase the chance of trauma to your abdomen or put you at risk of falling (such as horseback riding, gymnastics, and water skiing…). You also want to avoid any quick, jarring movements that will be harmful to the baby.
9. Listen to your body. Never exercise to the point of exhaustion. If you become short of breath, your body is telling you that you lack oxygen. If you feel pain or cramping, your body is telling you to slow down and not push so hard.
10. If need be, reduce your workout time. No one said you have to exercise for one full hour. A half and hour will benefit your body.
Also, adjust the frequency of your exercise program as your endurance diminishes. During the second and third trimester the body responses have slowed. Don’t push your endurance level past what your body can handle.