Seeing a pregnant woman jogging, swimming laps or lifting weights used to be a rare sight. Not anymore. Exercise is now considered an important part of a healthy pregnancy. "People used to think rest was the norm and exercise was dangerous, but now we realize that in a pregnancy free of complications, the opposite is true," says Mona Shangold, M.D., director of the Center for Women's Health and Sports Gynecology in Philadelphia.
There are almost as many benefits from prenatal exercise as there are choices in baby names. Exercise helps reduce backaches, constipation, bloating, swelling and other unpleasant side effects of pregnancy. It helps prevent excess weight gain and may also shorten your labor and delivery. And the perks will continue. "The exercise a women does during pregnancy allows her to lose weight more quickly after having the baby [if she continue to exercise]," says Shangold.
Start exercising now
The more you move during pregnancy, the better prepared your body will be for labor, delivery and recovery. More good news: If you're sedentary, experts now agree it's safe to start a moderate exercise program while expecting.
In fact the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released an updated version of its most authoritative consumer book on pregnancy, Your Pregnancy & Birth, in which it recommends that sedentary pregnant women start exercising. More great reasons to start exercising now.
Keep moving, safely
Despite advances in attitudes and guidelines, no one knows exactly how much exercise during pregnancy is enough—or too much. Also, keep in mind that exercise is not recommended for women with conditions such as placenta previa or pregnancy-induced hypertension. In general, however, most experts agree that 30 minutes of continuous exercise is likely safe. This doesn't mean you should abruptly stop after precisely a half hour, Shangold cautions. Slow down gradually and give yourself a full five minutes to cool down. And always check with your doctor before starting any workout program.
Get started: Here is an awesome prenatal Pilates workout that includes moves best for each trimester.