The Best Exercises for Pregnancy

So you're pregnant and you want to stay in shape or get in shape. What can you do? It may seem like everything is off limits when you are pregnant but there are so many different ways you can get in shape or stay in shape during pregnancy.

Here are a few pregnancy workout guidelines you should know before you get started:

  • Always check with your doctor before you start any exercise routine.

  • Make sure you are eating enough calories. When you workout you burn calories so you will want to make up for that with extra calories like healthy snacks or an extra small meal. If you need assistance with meal planning, talk to your doctor.

  • Make sure you warm up, cool down, and do some light stretching before and after your workout.

  • Don't exercise to exhaustion. You should be able to talk through your workout.

  • Don't do exercises that require you to be flat on your back.

  • Always listen to your body. If you feel like you are pushing yourself too hard, slow it down. If you have any vaginal bleeding, contractions, rapid heart rate, dizziness, or headache, you should stop exercising.

Cardio: Your pregnancy workout should incoporate some type of cardiovascular exercise. Walking and swimming are two of the best cardiovascular exercises you can do. Walking is great because it is low impact and easy on your knees. Make sure you listen to your body and go at a comfortable pace. Swimming is also great for expectant moms. The water allows you to work both your legs and arms. It's also low impact and takes pressure off your back and joints. Swim at a comfortable pace and again listen to your body. Running is okay too, if this is something your body is already used to. You'll want to talk to your doctor first though. If you haven't run before, now is not the time to start a running program. Aim for doing some type of cardiovascular workout for around 20 0-30 minutes, three times a week.

Body weight or light weight exercises: You may have heard that weight lifting is off limits during pregnancy. However, in most cases, doing body weight or light weight exercises is perfectly okay. Consult your doctor first.  There unfortunately is not a lot of information on strength training and prengancy. The ACOG doesn't provide clear guidelines for pregnant women so you will want to talk things over with your doctor before you begin any weight training program. It's generally suggested that pregnant women use light weight and higher repetitions when working out. It should be safe to lift any weight lower than a total of around 25-30 lbs (or around the weight of a toddler). If you feel you are not getting enough of a workout you can always add more exercises or more sets. Some exercises that are good to have in your workout routine include: squats, lunges, calf raises, seated reverse flyes, side bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, push ups or modified pushes (on your knees). As your belly gets bigger you may not be able to do standard push ups and can modify or do other chest exercise that don't require you to be flat on your back.

Weight training with heavy weights: If you are used to working out with heavy weights you should be able to continue weight training, but most experts recommend that you reduce the amount of weight you lift during pregnancy. Consult your doctor for guidelines.. Lifting heavy weights during pregnancy poses risks to your baby. When you perform an exercise with a heavy weight it increases your blood pressure and can cause an increase in intra-abdominal pressure, which could cause you to have contractions. Other risks include potential to fall or injure yourself during a lift.

Pregnancy Workout Videos One of the easiest ways to find a good pregnancy workout routine is to use a pregnancy workout video. Be sure that the video is made by a certified personal trainer.  They're convenient because all you have to do is pop in the video and follow along. You can also do a search on Youtube and find pregnancy workouts for free. However, keep in mind that anyone can upload a video to Youtube so make sure the person doing the video is a certified personal trainer.

What about those abs? You may be used to doing sit ups or crunches to work your abs. It's fine to do sit ups or crunches during the first trimester, but once you move into the second trimester you should avoid any exercises that places you lying flat on your back. One of the best and safest ab exercises for pregnancy are planks. The easiest way to do a plank is to get on your hands and knees. Place your elbows flat on the floor. Then move your legs back so that they are straight and your toes are against the floor. (You can also do them in the push up position.) Depending on your fitness level, you should aim to hold this position from anywhere to 15-30 seconds or as long as a minute. As your belly gets bigger, you will want to do this with an exercise ball or step so that your elbows are placed on the ball or step, lifting your belly off the ground.

Yoga and stretching. Stretching works wonders for a pregnant woman's aching back and joints. Stretching helps loosen sore muscles, relieves stress, and may help your body to be more prepared for labor. Yoga classes or videos are a nice way to fit stretching into your routine. Yoga not only helps you by teaching you stretches, but it also helps teach you to breath in a way that promotes relaxation. Learning deep breathing and relaxation techniques can be beneficial during childbirth.

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