Exercise plays a vital role in long-term health. When combined with a healthy diet, exercise can help men, women and children lower their risk for injury and potentially debilitating diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Exercise can even pay dividends for women who are pregnant. Though women should always consult their physicians when designing exercise regimens while pregnant, the benefits to breaking a sweat while expecting can be significant. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercising while pregnant can help women alleviate some of the aches and pains associated with pregnancy. Many pregnant women feel pain in their backs and ankles, but exercise can ease or even prevent such pains, improving women's mood and helping them sleep better. Exercising while pregnant also helps women keep weight off, making it easier for them to return to their normal weight after giving birth.
There are numerous benefits of exercising while pregnant, but it's still important that women not overdo it, as it can put both them and their unborn children at risk.
• Make a daily effort. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises that pregnant women should strive for an eventual goal of moderate-intensity exercise for at least 20 to 30 minutes per day on most or all days of the week. This exercise schedule should be adjusted as necessary should any complications arise, and women should make those adjustments after discussing the complications with their physicians. The ACOG notes that pregnant women who were sedentary prior to getting pregnant should follow a more gradual progression of exercise, slowly building up their exercise tolerance just like they would if they were not pregnant but wanted to become more physically active.
• Choose safe activities. While it's important for pregnant women to remain physically active, certain exercises are safer than others. Safe exercises for women with uncomplicated pregnancies who regularly consult with their obstetricians include walking, swimming, stationary cycling, yoga, modified pilates, and even strength training for women who engaged in such training prior to becoming pregnant. Contact sports, including basketball, and activities that carry a high risk of falling, such as downhill skiing, gymnastics and off-road cycling, should be avoided. The ACOG also recommends that pregnant women avoid hot yoga or hot pilates.
• Employ the buddy system. The buddy system can ensure someone is there to help should pregnant women experience any adverse side effects while exercising. Pregnant women should always use spotters when strength training, and should never go for walks or jogs without a partner. Women can go one step further by keeping their mobile phones with them at all times and including their obstetricians' contact information on their phones and among their favorites so anyone who needs to contact them can do so quickly.
• Know the warning signs that something might be amiss. It's important that pregnant women learn to recognize the warning signs to discontinue exercise while pregnant. Women should discontinue exercise immediately and consult their physicians if they experience any of the following symptoms:
• vaginal bleeding
• amniotic fluid leakage
• labored breathing before exertion
• chest pain
• muscle weakness affecting balance
• calf pain or swelling
• regular painful contractions
More information about exercising while pregnant can be found at www.acog.org.