The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Lynn Chapman-Stern has more than a little insight into what makes a healthy pregnancy. Not only is she a swimmer, a runner and the mother of two, but she is also a certified nurse-midwife at Allen Pavilion of the New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She’s there with women at the moment of truth: when their bodies perform the ultimate challenge of giving birth.
She’s also there afterward, when moms and newborns come in for postpartum checkups. “You need to be in good shape after you have your baby too,” says Chapman-Stern. “Don’t forget that lifting the baby will take a lot of strength.” That’s why the nine months of your pregnancy are an excellent time to be doing smart, safe exercises that will keep you in shape for the birth and beyond.
Here are the five basic areas you need to focus your pregnancy routine on:
1. Cardiovascular exercise is great for circulation, energy, stamina and weight control, says Chapman-Stern. “Walking is excellent. Very few women are going to get overly hot or dehydrated when they’re walking.”
2. flexibility and 3. leg strength will enable you to handle the positions of labor for hours at a time and also bounce back into an active life after the birth.
4. a strong back will help you deal with the extra weight in your uterus, which could otherwise pull you out of alignment.
5. well-toned abs will assist you in carrying the fetus, avoiding back pain and recovering your shape afterward.
The workout on the following pages represents every one of these must-do prenatal exercise categories, along with specific moves that Chapman-Stern recommends for each.
These five fitness “must-dos” comprise a complete prenatal workout designed to be done three to five times a week. If you like, you can do the cardio element separately, but elements two through five
were designed to be done together as a single 20- to 30-minute workout.
Exercise Rx: Urban walk or nature hike
Why you need it: Cardiovascular exercise will help you maintain your current fitness level and gain a reasonable amount of weight during your pregnancy. It’s also a great way to keep your leg muscles strong and supple (important for labor) and energy levels high. We recommend a brisk walk or hike for the relaxation and psychological lift provided. You can also take this opportunity to get outside for some quality time with your partner or friends.
How to do it: Try to take a 20- to 30-minute walk 3–5 days a week. Aim to work up to 60 minutes on days when you have more energy; to achieve this goal, increase your time by l0 percent each week. Walk briskly. Adapt your pace based on your changing body, and remember to stay hydrated. If you’re in good shape, you can continue to hike throughout your entire pregnancy, but stay away from long climbs, which can be overtaxing. Hike on a stable trail, and wear good footwear and ventilated clothing. If going downhill feels harder on your knees as your belly grows, try zigzagging down the hill (descend diagonally to the right, then to the left). Stop if you feel fatigued, and make sure you don’t get so winded that you can’t talk easily. For variety and comfort, try swimming or riding an upright or recumbent bike in your first trimester or at the beginning of your second trimester.