The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Sooner or later during pregnancy, you’ll probably start feeling that your body isn’t quite the one you’re used to — and not just because it’s being shared with another person. You may suddenly experience no-sweat activities as quite strenuous or develop unexpected back pain. One of the best ways to stay in touch with yourself and keep feeling great in the months ahead is to embark on a moderate cardiovascular and strength-building program. “You need to keep working your muscles despite the changes in endurance and equilibrium that come with pregnancy,” says Tim Green, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer who designed the exercise routine that follows. Green leads a number of his pregnant clients through this workout, including our model, Kathy Ireland, who is expecting her second child in early October. Four years ago, after she delivered her first child, he helped her shed the 40 pounds she had gained while pregnant.
More oomph Exercising during pregnancy may provide you with more oomph during your final trimester and labor. “Fit women seem to have more stamina,” says Michelle F. Mottola, Ph.D., director of the R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation-Exercise and Pregnancy Laboratory at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.
Staying fit throughout pregnancy may also make your postpartum recovery and weight loss easier. If you remain sedentary, you’re more likely to gain fat and lose muscle tissue, which could make it more difficult to return to your prepregnancy shape. “Consistent exercise during pregnancy helps prevent excessive weight gain,” says Carol Otis, M.D., a UCLA sports medicine physician. “Women who exercise and are able to maintain their aerobic fitness levels also seem to have a more positive attitude about their bodies during pregnancy,” she adds.
Better backs Preventing back pain during pregnancy is another goal of Green’s workout, and that’s good news for many pregnant women. A 1996 study published in the journal Spine found that in a group of 200 pregnant women, 76 percent reported back pain. “Many of these exercises focus on the lower back and legs and on improving balance so women are more aware of their posture,” Green says. Preserving muscle tone helps prevent many discomforts of a growing belly.
The experts are persuasive about exercise during pregnancy, but they also urge caution (see the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines). “Don’t participate in any activity where there’s a danger of falling,” Mottola urges. Furthermore, always make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after every workout. You don’t want to get overheated, because that can affect the fetus. After the first trimester, avoid exercises that require lying on your back, which can decrease blood flow to the uterus.