The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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With few exceptions, such as scuba diving, you should be able to continue to exercise as you did before pregnancy,” says Raul Artal, M.D., chairman of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at Missouri’s Saint Louis University School of Medicine. But you’re not excused if your pre-pregnancy workout was punching the TV remote. Previously sedentary women who start exercising while pregnant do just fine; and prenatal exercise is not only safe, it improves pregnancy outcomes, partly because it helps control weight gain.
Researchers say it’s leisure-time activity that benefits pregnancy, not physical labor done at work. Gardening helps maintain flexibility and build strength; walking, running, swimming, hiking and biking boost aerobic capacity. “With any exercise that requires balancing, such as biking, there is risk of falling,” notes Artal, a prenatal-exercise expert, so pay attention to your balance, which usually becomes an issue at about four months.
Unfortunately, American moms-to-be are largely on their own in the search for safe, convenient exercise venues. “If you look at Scandinavian cities, like Copenhagen, the bike lanes are wider than the car lanes,” says Artal. “Some of our U.S. neighborhoods don’t even have sidewalks.”
Nevertheless, walking remains the perfect prenatal exercise—a moderate-intensity and low-impact activity that requires no equipment beyond good shoes. And it can be a gift to the planet when your stroll to the store replaces a car trip; a four-mile round-trip walk will keep about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air. Some studies have found that if people nationwide got their recommended daily exercise by walking instead of driving, we could reduce our oil consumption by up to 38 percent. So once you’ve found your route, get outside regularly for a brisk walk. Sunshine will boost your vitamin D levels (very important during pregnancy), and believe it or not, outdoor air is less polluted than the air inside the average American home.
When you exercise:
YOU stay leaner, sleep better, have better posture and feel less stressed. You may suffer less morning sickness, fatigue, backache and joint and muscle pain, and your pregnancy is more likely to be complication-free.
YOUR BABY is less likely to be born too big and is more likely to be lean, have better cardiovascular function and show fewer signs of stress during infancy.
THE PLANET absorbs less global-warming carbon every time you walk or cycle in place of driving the car or using an electric-powered exercise machine.