Q: Is it OK to swim or do aqua exercises while I'm pregnant?
A: It's better than OK: Swimming and other water-based activities are among the best things a pregnant woman can do for herself. Because you are suspended in water, the activity is easy on your joints and muscles, and you can maintain a fairly high level of intensity without straining, Downs says. Of course, you should feel comfortable in the water; if you're at all hesitant, use a flotation device and stay in the shallow end of the pool. Avoid water that's too hot or cold; a temperature between 80° F and 84° F is ideal.
Not a swimmer? Downs suggests walking or doing leg swings in the shallow end of a pool or taking an aqua-aerobics class. Runners will find aqua-jogging (wearing a special flotation belt in the deep end of the pool) a low-impact yet challenging alternative to pounding the pavement.
A much-welcome bonus from exercising in water: edema (swelling) is reduced. "The biggest complaint in the later part of pregnancy is swelling in the legs," says Abraham Shashoua, M.D., chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology division at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The increased pressure of being under water tends to squeeze excess fluids into the bloodstream so they can be excreted.