Saturday, February 9, 2008

Here's how to get helpful exercise during pregnancy


Cox News Service

DAYTON, Ohio -- It was once believed that pregnant women should refrain from physical activity during pregnancy, but it is now known that exercise is good for both mothers-to-be and babies during this time. Virtually every ache, pain and discomfort that goes along with pregnancy can be alleviated or lessened with exercise.

Lisa Druxman, founder of Stroller Strides and author of "Lean Mommy," states that most women find that they can continue with their pre-pregnancy workout routine throughout pregnancy, although they may have to make certain modifications to make it more comfortable.

"To keep mom and baby safe, it's important to create a workout that is geared for pregnancy," Druxman writes. "It is essential to continue to strengthen the abdominals during pregnancy for example. Stronger abs can help prevent back pain, make carrying around a baby more comfortable and may even help in labor. Core exercises are also great, especially standing ones. Not all exercises are appropriate, such as traditional crunches, which are ineffective when the muscle tissue is stretched. After the first trimester, it is not recommended that mom lay on her back when exercising, as this may affect oxygen and blood flow to the baby."

Later in pregnancy, exercises that cause the center of gravity to shift forward, such as cycling, are not recommended.

How often to exercise? Druxman offers this advice:

"Moderate physical activity is recommended on most, if not all, days of the week. This moderate exercise would be equivalent to walking at about 3-4 miles per hour. Higher intensity workouts are considered safe three to five days per week, but not recommended two days in a row. Women who exercised before pregnancy can generally continue throughout, while women who were totally inactive should wait until their second trimester to begin. It is agreed by most authorities that consistency is most important. Women should begin with three times per week and work up to 4-5 times per week. Anything less than that is inconsistent and could potentially do more harm than good."

As for type of exercise, most women can engage in both cardiovascular and strength workouts, with focus on activities that will help adjust for postural changes that occur in pregnancy.

Just about any aerobic activity is appropriate if comfortable. Non-weight-bearing exercises are usually most comfortable, especially in later stages of pregnancy.

Any exercise that poses risk of falling (such as skiing or mountain biking) or trauma to the abdomen is not appropriate due to possible injuries. The general consensus amongst experts is that sessions of 30-60 minutes of activity are appropriate for prenatal exercise. The two primary concerns in relation to long-duration exercise (more than 45 minutes) are energy deficit and thermoregulation.

The saying "eat for two" is no longer considered appropriate, Druxman adds. In fact, new recommendations by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are to eat to appetite. However, it is necessary to make sure you are taking in enough calories if you are exercising, particularly for long sessions.

All pregnant women should get their doctor's approval before beginning any exercise program. It is important to establish a safe, fun and comfortable routine, one that you will want to continue throughout your pregnancy. Listen to your body and pay close attention to warning signals.

You should stop exercising and seek medical advice if you experience any of the following symptoms:

-- Dizziness

-- Headache

-- Chest pain

-- Muscle weakness

-- Calf pain or swelling

-- Preterm labor

-- Decreased fetal movement

-- Amniotic fluid leakage

-- Bleeding

-- Dyspnea prior to exertion (out of breath, prior to exercise).

Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Association Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. E-mail: OHTrainer AT Her Web site is at

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