Healthy Lifestyle

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It's possible to exercise safely during pregnancy

Pregnant women have mixed views on staying in shape. Some mothers-to-be view pregnancy as a chance to cast aside concerns about body image and enjoy the freedom to eat a little more and revel in the changes their body undergoes during pregnancy. Other women want to remain physically fit and return to their pre-baby weight as soon as possible. Regardless of the camp you fall into, it's important to know that exercising during pregnancy is a safe option for many women, provided it is endorsed by a doctor.

As long as women keep the health of their babies in mind and consult their physicians, staying fit throughout a pregnancy is a very real possibility. According to the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board and the Institute of Medicine, depending on starting weight, women can expect an average weight gain of 15 to 40 pounds during pregnancy. Women who will be having multiples will likely gain more weight than those who are not. Exercise and healthy eating can keep both mom and baby healthy.

The Mayo Clinic advises that pregnancy can be a great time to get active. Although it can be tempting to sit back and relax for nine months, it actually may be better for all involved to remain physically active rather than sedentary. Exercise can ease back pain and other aches, and it can prevent excess weight gain that may contribute to an overly large baby, which can make labor and delivery more difficult. Exercise during pregnancy can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, and even postpartum depression. Additionally, physical activity during pregnancy can help with stamina and muscle strength, which will be essential during the delivery process.

The American Pregnancy Association says that exercise does not increase the risk for miscarriage in healthy women with a normal, low-risk pregnancy. Many women who have been following regular exercise regimens prior to their pregnancies can usually maintain some level of physical activity throughout the pregnancy. BabyCenter Canada says that walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, Pilates, and even jogging can be safe and ideal exercises provided a woman does not go overboard. Sports or activities where a person might have a hard fall or be thrown off balance are not advised. These include horseback riding, gymnastics and bicycling. Sports where you can be hit in the stomach, such as tennis, are potentially unsafe and should be avoided.

Most experts advise pregnant women capable of exercise to aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least three times per week. A more rigorous workout schedule may lead to a low-weight baby or could put excess strain on pelvic floor muscles that may lead to early labor.

When pregnant women are exercising, here are some additional guidelines.

* Avoid exercise in extremely hot or cold weather.

* Wear comfortable footwear that supports the ankles and arches of the feet.

* Take frequent breaks.

* Drink plenty of water.

* Begin slowly and gradually build stamina.

* Listen to your body and do not push yourself if you are tired or in pain.

* Avoid exercise that involves lying flat on the back during the second and third trimesters, as this decreases blood flow to the uterus.

* Always keep your doctor abreast of your exercise schedule and consult with him or her if you plan to include any new activities in your regimen.

Exercising during pregnancy is possible and a good way to maintain peak physical health to prepare for the arrival of a baby.