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on your uterus can impinge on the inferior vena cava vein, which takes blood back to the heart.)
Find your workout level In general, if you worked out prior to your pregnancy, it’s OK to continue — with your doctor’s approval, of course. But if you haven’t been exercising, some experts say it’s a good idea to wait until the second trimester to begin. “Your baby is most susceptible to heat in the first trimester, and you’re more likely to be fatigued,” says Michelle Mottola, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy and kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. (See Level 1 and Level 2 instructions for our workout below.)
How do you know if you’re overdoing it? If you can talk comfortably while you’re working out, continue. But if you can’t speak a full sentence without becoming breathless, you’re pushing too hard. Also, drink water before, during and after exercise, so your body doesn’t get dehydrated.
Exercise during pregnancy can provide a number of benefits, says Gayle Peterson, M.S.S.W., Ph.D., a prenatal development specialist and the author of An Easier Childbirth (Shadow & Light, $17.95). “During pregnancy, when your emotions fluctuate and your hormone levels change, exercise can stabilize your mood,” Peterson says. “And women who exercise are more likely to look at their body changes as positive, and they are better prepared for the rigors of labor.”
This workout is designed to strengthen your torso so you can maintain good posture throughout the pregnancy. The exercises also will prepare you for carrying or lifting the baby afterward. Do them in the order listed, resting a minute between sets.
warm-up and stretching Begin with 10–12 minutes of light cardio work, using a treadmill, bike or stepper set to low intensity. Follow each strengthening move with an “opposite direction” stretch: For example, after you’ve squeezed your shoulder blades together, reach forward to stretch your back. Hold each stretch to a point of mild tension for 5 deep breaths (about 20–30 seconds) without bouncing.
cool-down Relax, either in a seated or side-lying position, and take some deep breaths. Beginning with your feet and moving slowly up your body, contract each muscle group for a few seconds, then relax. Do 10 Kegel exercises in a row, holding each for 5 seconds. Complete your cool-down with a series of deep breaths. Inhale, hold for 5 seconds, then exhale slowly.