The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Cheryl Kruse Shwe, 34, a running coach, ran between 15 and 35 miles a week in San Francisco until the day she delivered her baby. Juliet Hochman, 34, a former Olympic rower from Portland, Ore., traded running for power walks partway through both of her pregnancies. And they’re not alone.
Not long ago, pregnancy was a time to put up your feet, not lace up your running shoes. But these days, a lot of women are benefiting from staying active through pregnancy. One of the best — and easiest — ways to do that is by walking or running.
The important thing about exercise during pregnancy is to just do it. “During a normal, healthy pregnancy, women who exercise will experience benefits to both mother and baby,” says Karen Nordahl, M.D., founder of the Fit to Deliver prenatal-fitness program. “The benefits are both immeasurable, such as an improved sense of well-being, and measurable, such as a decrease in fetal intervention at delivery.”
Find your groove
Whatever exercise you do, be prepared to adapt your routine to your growing belly: Cut back on the number of days you work out, switch to recumbent bicycling or, if you’re a runner, try walking. “Walking is as effective as running, provided you walk fast and far enough,” says Susi Kerr, who co-developed Fit to Deliver’s programs.
Another good option is water running in the deep end of a pool using either a flotation belt or a pool noodle. “It’s a good alternative if you feel unstable on land but still want that endorphin release, and if you want to keep cool,” says Kerr.
Endorphins aside, whether you walk or run, knowing you’ve helped give your baby a healthy start in life is the biggest high of all.
Walking and Running Program: How much can you walk or run while pregnant?
Your distance, speed and intensity will depend on whether you were a beginner, intermediate or advanced exerciser before you became pregnant (check out the chart below for guidelines). Whatever your fitness level, our guide to walking and running, created by Karen Nordahl, M.D., personal trainer Susi Kerr and physical therapist Carl Petersen of Fit to Deliver (800-511-1225; www.fittodeliver.com), will suit you. An extra perk: In addition to walking and running, the program includes strength, flexibility and balance components.
You were new to exercise prior to your pregnancy. Start slowly with a simple walking program: Walk for 30 minutes 2–3 times per week, with a day of rest in between.
You can begin to increase the intensity of your walk. Warm up by walking briskly for 5–10 minutes, then pick up the pace and power walk (walk at a fast pace, pumping your arms) for 25 minutes. Cool down by walking slowly for 5 minutes.
You were walking or running consistently for at least 3 months prior to your pregnancy for 10–15 total miles per week. You can continue the same routine 3–4 times a week, with a day of rest in between.
|If everything went well in your first trimester and you are feeling up to it, you can continue at the same pace.|| Continue your routine if you are still comfortable, but stick to flat terrain. Decrease your mileage if running becomes difficult; walk or cross train to maintain your fitness level.
|Advanced||You were running 15–20 miles a week consistently for 6 months or more prior to pregnancy and occasionally competed in races. You can continue this routine except for the racing. If you feel as if you are overexerting yourself, walk or discontinue the routine until you feel stronger.||You can run as many as 5 days a week if you feel comfortable. Work out in a pool on days when you are feeling tired or are not up for a run.||You surely are feeling the extra weight you are carrying. If you still feel good and want to continue running, then do so. You may find that you don’t feel comfortable running as long or for as many days a week as you did in the first two trimesters. If you feel unstable, walk or continue your runs in a pool.|
Read more about strength training and smart exercising on page 2.