The Fab 5

Stay strong and relaxed during your pregnancy with the best exercises for expectant moms.

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Now that you're pregnant, you may be wondering whether you should be working out, which exercise routines are safe and how hard you can push yourself. Even if you haven't been active, start moving: Exercise is good for you and your baby, and getting in the habit now can help you get your body back more quickly after delivery. Here you'll find the safest and most effective workouts for all nine months. No matter what form of exercise you choose, find an instructor who is trained in prenatal exercise and who can help you personalize your program. And remember to get your doctor's approval before doing these or any other exercises.

Be Safe!

• Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program or continuing a prepregnancy workout.

• Stop exercising immediately if you feel dizzy or fatigued or you experience bleeding.

• Take it easy: Pregnancy is not the time to push yourself physically, but rather to maintain your fitness level.

• Drink water before, during and after your workout.

• Use the "talk test" whenever you exercise. If you cannot carry on a conversation, slow down the pace.

• Wear supportive athletic shoes that are designed specifically for your chosen activity.

The Benefits The Cautions Tips For Beginners Resources Walking is a great overall workout you can do throughout your pregnancy. It strengthens your heart and lungs, increases stamina, helps you sleep better and may also relieve nausea. Avoid uneven surfaces to prevent tripping. Be aware of your posture at all times, since your shifting center of gravity affects your balance. Make sure you can still hold a conversation; if you can't, slow down. Keep your abs pulled in, shoulders back and down, and eyes straight ahead. Let your heel strike the ground first, and roll through your entire foot. Walking Through Pregnancy and Beyond by Marc and Lisa Fenton with Tracy Teare (The Lyons Press) includes several walking programs, plus safety tips and a stretching routine for all fitness levels. Water Activities Swimming, shallow-water aerobics and walking, and deep-water running offer excellent cardiovascular benefits. Also, the water's buoyancy takes pressure off your joints and muscles. Water temperature should stay below 90° F. Your heart rate can be deceptive when you're active in the water, so watch your exertion level. Look out for swimmers who might knock into you; wear aqua shoes so you don't slip. Walk across the shallow end of the pool or hold onto the side while doing large, slow kicks and big arm circles. Water Fitness During Your Pregnancy by Jane Katz, Ed.D., (Human Kinetics) offers a choice of exercise programs with helpful illustrations. Weight training helps maintain muscle tone, strength and alignment to ease pregnancy aches and pains. Use machines if it becomes difficult to maintain proper form with free weights. Reduce the weight as your pregnancy progresses. Avoid holding your breath. Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes. Using light weights, do one set of eight to 12 reps. Gently stretch your muscles after your workout, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds without bouncing. Fit to Deliver by Karen Nordahl, M.D., Carl Petersen, P.T., B.Sc., and Renee Jeffreys (Hartley Marks) provides various weight workouts for all fitness levels. Prenatal Pilates gently strengthens your entire body and teaches you to be aware of your pelvic-floor and deep abdominal muscles, which will benefit you during labor. If you can't work with a qualified prenatal Pilates teacher, opt for a prenatal video or DVD. During the second and third trimesters, do not exercise while lying on your back. Use a slip-proof mat along with props such as cushions or a rolled-up towel under your knees to relieve tension. The Fusion Pilates for Pregnancy video (Gianni Productions) includes modifications for each trimester. Visit fusionpilates.com. Prenatal yoga can be done throughout your pregnancy for increased strength and stamina. You will also learn breathing techniques to help you stay relaxed and focused during pregnancy and labor. Do not attempt inverted poses or any posture that requires you to lie flat on your back or belly. You can modify certain poses by using a chair or blankets. Don't forget a slip-proof yoga mat. Prenatal yoga programs and classes are very gentle, so you can start them at any point during your pregnancy, even if you've never stepped foot in a yoga class before. Yoga for Total Well Being: Prenatal Yoga (Nityananda Institute Inc.) is a DVD series offering several prenatal yoga routines. Visit prenatalyogadvd.com.

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