Being pregnant should be a time of your life that is full of joy, anticipation, and the realization that you are bringing a new life into the world. Part of taking care of yourself, and this marvelous new life you are forming, is planning a pregnancy exercise program.
Creating a Pregnancy Fitness Program
If you already have an exercise program in place, you can most likely continue with what you’ve been doing in moderation. You should always check with your health care provider to make sure there are no extenuating circumstances that would indicate no exercise.
If you have not been exercising regularly before pregnancy, you should certainly start some kind of activity (again with your health care provider’s “go ahead”). Walking is generally considered to be safe and a good way to start a pregnancy exercise program. Swimming is great because it’s aerobic and toning while minimizing stress on your joints.
Things to Keep in Mind
Whatever your pre-pregnancy exercise habits have been, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you are doing aerobic exercise like walking, running, dancing, or any kind of indoor activity such as elliptical or cycling machines, don’t allow your heart rate to exceed 140 beats per minute and take it easy by warming up slowly and make sure you give yourself a longer cool-down time. If you keep in mind that you are caring for another life as well as your own, some of this is just common sense. A gentle approach to anything you do will serve you and your baby well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, as your pregnancy progresses, the hormones that your body produces cause your ligaments to stretch, increasing the chance of injury. Again, be gentle with yourself. Now is a great time to start to develop a mindfulness of your body, if you haven’t already. In addition, your center of gravity shifts, putting more stress on the ligaments, tendons and muscles of your lower back.
Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are wonderful forms of exercise to assist you with being mindful of how this additional stress is affecting your body. Most yoga and Pilates studios have pregnancy yoga and pregnancy pilates classes. Both yoga and Pilates can help to prepare your body for childbirth. Both teach relaxation of muscles while stretching and strengthening them. This helps immensely when you are faced with the rigors of childbirth. Yoga is very centering and uses the breath to remain calm. If you have practiced this kind of breathing for months before childbirth, you are much less likely to forget it during labor.
Just a few cautionary words. If you experience any of the following, you should stop whatever exercise you are doing and consult your health care practitioner:
- Vaginal bleeding or leakage of fluid
- Sudden swelling of ankles, hands or face
- Lightheadedness, dizziness or nausea
- Pain, especially if in your abdomen, head, chest or back
- Difficulty breathing or walking or have muscle weakness
Again, be sensible. If you don’t feel right, stop what you are doing. This can be one of the most wonderful times of your life, and following some simple guidelines should help you have the best experience possible.