Be Smart, Be Safe
Pregnancy is one time when exercise is not about setting records. Instead, your goal should be to optimize your and your baby’s health. Pay attention to how you feel, and monitor the intensity and duration of your workouts. “Just because you ran for an hour-and-a-half before you were pregnant doesn’t mean it’s OK now,” says Susi Kerr, a co-developer of the Fit to Deliver exercise program. Keep these precautions in mind when doing any type of exercise:
Use the talk test. “If you can carry on a conversation throughout the whole workout, you’re getting enough oxygen for you and your baby,” says Kerr. (See page 115 for more guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.)
Stop if you experience pain, fever, bleeding, dizziness, faintness, pubic pain, persistent headache, sudden swelling, difficulty walking, lack of normal fetal movement or an abnormally rapid heartbeat.
Rest if you feel extreme fatigue. Listen to your body, and don’t overdo it.
Drink up. Add 8 ounces of water to your total daily fluid intake for every 30 minutes of exercise. Stay cool by dressing in breathable layers that you can shed. In warm weather, exercise early or late in the day, and ratchet down the intensity.
Watch your back. Back pain is common during pregnancy; if you experience it, make sure your exercise routine isn’t the culprit.
Watch the clock. Don’t work out at a high intensity for more than 40 minutes at a time.
Strength Training Moves
Core and upper-body exercises can help counter the poor posture (rounded shoulders and upper back, exaggerated lower-back curve) that is often associated with pregnancy. Here are 4 great moves that require no equipment and easily can be incorporated into your exercise program. You can even modify some of the exercises as your pregnancy progresses.
For each exercise, do 2–3 sets of 12–15 reps, resting 30–60 seconds between sets. Do them on the days that you run or walk. (You can do Cat Backs and Back Presses daily.)
Face a support, feet hip-width apart, hands slightly wider than shoulders, arms straight. Press hips forward so your body forms a straight line (A). Bend elbows and lean chest toward the support until elbows are about in line with shoulders (B). Push back to starting position and repeat. Strengthens chest, front shoulders and triceps. trimester tip You can do a traditional push-up, with your hands on the ground, during the first trimester. In your second trimester, do push-ups while kneeling, with hands on a bench.
2. Tricep Dips
Stand with your back to a ledge offering horizontal support, knees bent, feet flat on the ground. Place your hands on the edge of the support close to your buttocks, fingertips pointing forward, arms straight. Lift your buttocks using your arms; squeeze shoulder blades down and together (A). Without changing position, bend your elbows, lowering your torso until elbows are about in line with shoulders (B). Straighten arms without locking and repeat. Strengthens triceps. trimester tip If you’re strong enough during your first trimester, keep your legs straight and feet flexed so you’re supported on your heels.
3. Cat Backs
Kneel on the ground with your wrists just in front of your shoulders and knees in line with your hips. Keeping arms straight, inhale, lifting up head and tailbone (A). Using your abdominals, exhale, letting your head relax and rounding your spine like a cat (B). Continue for reps in a rhythmic pattern. Strengthens abdominals and back.
4. Back Presses
Lean your entire back and buttocks against a vertical support with your feet slightly forward, knees slightly bent and arms crossed in front of your chest or hanging by your sides (A). Use your abs to pull your navel toward your spine and tilt the bottom of your pelvis upward (B). Hold for 20 seconds, then release and repeat. Continue to breathe, still using your abs, for the entire 20 seconds. Strengthens abs.
Your Body Will Thank You
Moderate exercise eases many pregnancy-related discomforts such as swelling, nausea and leg cramps. It also reduces your risk of developing gestational diabetes or requiring a Cesarean section, episiotomy or other medical intervention during delivery. Staying active can also help control excessive weight gain and speed your recovery time once the baby arrives. What’s more, exercise benefits both mom and baby by improving blood flow and circulation, according to a study led by James F. Clapp III, M.D., of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.