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You probably already know that staying active during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for your health—and your baby’s. You also may know studies have found that pregnant women who exercise have smoother deliveries than those who aren’t active and that they also feel better about themselves after delivery.
"Women who are physically fit are definitely able to handle pregnancy more easily and do the work involved in labor and delivery," says Mona Shangold, M.D., director of the Center for Sports Gynecology and Women’s Health in Philadelphia. "They are also better able to handle the physical demands after delivery: carrying a baby and all of the paraphernalia involved."
Weight training, in particular, helps prepare you for the hard work of labor and new motherhood. Designed by Fit Pregnancy’s fitness director, Linda Shelton, our at-home strength-training program, with options for working out at the gym, is just the ticket to help you maintain your muscle tone and current level of fitness. In addition to this workout, try to participate in an aerobic activity of your choice at least 3 times per week for a minimum of 20 minutes.
As with any exercise during pregnancy, it’s best to talk to your doctor before beginning our workout routine, Shangold says.
If you were strength training prior to pregnancy, do 1–2 sets of 8–15 reps 2–3 times a week. Otherwise, start with 1–2 sets of 8–10 reps twice a week.
1. ONE-ARM ROW Place your left hand and left knee on the seat of a chair. Lean forward, holding a dumbbell in your right hand; keep right arm straight, palm facing in (A). Bend right elbow, pulling dumbbell toward waist, and pause (B). Return to starting position and repeat for reps; switch legs and repeat with other arm. Recommended weight: 5–8 pounds. Gym option: Use one cable of the seated cable row machine. Strengthens middle back and biceps.
2. CURL AND LIFT Sit on the edge of a chair with your knees bent, feet flat on floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight and by your side, palms facing in. Bend elbows, raising forearms parallel to floor (A). Lift arms up to shoulder height, keeping elbows bent, upper arms parallel to floor (B). Lower arms back to sides, then return to starting position; repeat for reps. Recommended weight: 5–8 pounds. Gym option: Same exercise as above. Strengthens biceps and shoulders.
3. SEATED AB Sit on the edge of a chair, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Keeping abs tight, lean back so only your upper back and shoulders are supported by the chair back. (Prop a pillow behind you if necessary.) Inhale and hold, then exhale and bend right knee up toward chest (shown). Lower foot to floor, then alternate with other leg. Repeat for reps. Gym option: Same exercise, using an incline bench. Strengthens abdominals.