The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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How to get going
Whether you’ve been sedentary or you’re already in shape, you’ll find the right challenge, thanks to this prenatal walking program for both active and formerly inactive moms-to-be, designed by exercise physiologist Mary Yoke, M.A. Before you get started, check with your doctor and review the exercise guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“Walking is a great all-around choice, and it’s the one exercise that almost every woman can do,” says Yoke, who walked throughout her own pregnancy. Her program can be adapted to the outdoors or for treadmills, and also includes six basic strength moves you can do at home to complement the aerobic component. “Strengthening work will help you maintain lean body mass and bone density during pregnancy,” she explains.
During my own pregnancy, I was still taking 20-minute walks at lunchtime the week before I gave birth. Walking remains an important part of my day, but now, my two baby girls come along for the ride.
1. Split lunge Stand with right foot in front of left, hip-width apart, and left heel lifted. Place hands on hips. Bend both knees so right knee is in line with right ankle and left knee points to ground. Straighten leg; repeat for reps. Switch sides. Weight: –10 pounds in each hand. To modify: In the first trimester, active exercisers can do a regular lunges holding dumbbells, if they’re accustomed to it. In the second trimester, do this exercise using no weight, and in the third trimester, hold onto a support, such as a bench or the back of a chair. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings and buttocks.
2. Overhead press Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, elbows bent close to sides, forearms parallel and palms facing each other. Contract abdominals and squeeze shoulder blades together to help maintain posture. Without swaying, straighten arms overhead; keep arms separated and don’t lock elbows. Bend elbows, lowering to starting position; repeat. Weight: 3–10 pounds. To modify: As you need more support, sit all the way back in a chair. If you feel pain in shoulders or wrists, decrease your weight. Strengthens middle shoulders, upper back and biceps.
3. One–arm bent–over row Stand facing a sturdy support, such as a bench or heavy chair, with right foot in front of left in lunge position, right knee slightly bent in line with right ankle and left heel lifted. Place right hand on support, with elbow slightly bent and dumbbell in left hand, and bend forward from hips until back is parallel to ground. Extend left arm straight down from shoulder, palm facing thigh. Keep hips square and contract abdominals so spine is in neutral alignment (there should be no stress placed on lower back. Bend left arm