Exercise generally improves overall well-being. It is particularly important for a pregnant woman because it may lessen the discomforts associated with pregnancy. It promotes good posture and it keeps your energy level up. It is also a very good way to prepare your body for labor and delivery, because it increases your resistance and muscle strength.
The type of activity that allows you to use your large muscle groups rhythmically is best. A good example of this is walking. The intensity of the exercise program also depends largely on your health. Women who have a history of preterm labor, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are considered high-risk pregnancies, thus it is important to consult your health care provider first. Women who have placenta previa, or a problem with the uterus that can cause excessive bleeding, also need to seek proper medical advise, in order to gauge whether exercise is advisable or not.
As a rule, a woman can still continue her sport-related activities during pregnancy for as long as it does not pose a threat to her safety. Sports that involve body contact are also not advisable. For as long as the activities you choose are approved by your physician, it is generally safe to still participate in the same sport, but in moderation, or until balance becomes an issue. It is also not the best time to learn new skills like riding a bike, or skiing, because the lack of skill may only result in falls or accidents.
In order to promote safety during an exercise, here are some guidelines:
1. Discuss with your doctor your target heart rate and your limits, in order to avoid overexertion. Both pregnant and non-pregnant woman should exercise at 70% to 85% of their maximum heart rate. A simple formula on how to derive your target range is by subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying it with 70% and 85%. For example, after exercise, a 35-year old woman should have a pulse range of 129 to 157 beats per minute;(220-35 X 70% and 85%).
2. Avoid performing exercise if you have a fever or during very hot and humid days.
3. Begin your exercise with a warm-up. It is advisable that you spend the first five minutes doing stretching or even slow walking.
4. Be well hydrated. It is best to drink fluids before, after, or even during exercise, to prevent dehydration.
5. Make sure you have enough calories to meet not only the extra energy needs of your, pregnancy but also the exercise performed.
6. Avoid exercises that make you hold your breath and bear down. This is called the Valsalva maneuver, and it is not good to participate in programs that employ these.
7. Do not go beyond fifteen minutes in performing strenuous activities. Avoid as well activities that require jumping, bouncing, running, and skipping. Jarring motions, or those that involve sudden changes in direction, also need to be avoided, because balance is always an issue during pregnancy
8. Make sure that you exercise on an even surface to prevent injury. Wooden floors and tightly carpeted surfaces are recommended because it provides a sure footing.
9. After performing floor exercises, get up slowly to prevent rapid blood pressure changes as it may cause dizziness.
10. Always end your workout with period of gradual activity. The increased risk to joint injury among pregnant women is high, so it is important not to stretch beyond the point of maximum resistance.
11. Know when to stop. If you suddenly have chest pain, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, shortness of breath, abdominal pain or any vaginal bleeding, you need to contact your physician right away.
Exercise is one way of coping with the physiologic changes of pregnancy. If you haven’t been into sports or any exercise program, you don’t really need to enroll in any fancy fitness facility. Activities like walking or swimming or cycling on a stationary bike, are well tolerated by pregnant women. Pregnancy is a time when women need to take the extra mile, in order to be healthy. Discuss your options with your doctor, so you will know what exercises are suited for you. No matter how far you are with your pregnancy, it is never too late to start moving.