If you're pregnant or have just given birth, you're probably concerned how to
get the extra weight gained off. The natural solution is to get exercise. Good
news: research shows that women who exercise during pregnancy and after giving
birth experience not only an improvement in physical well being but better
mental health as well.
In addition to weight management, the advantages to exercising during and
after pregnancy are numerous. During pregnancy, exercise can help you feel
better and cope with a dramatically changing body. Exercise has been shown to
increase energy; improve posture and relieve backaches and leg cramps; lower
stress, anxiety, and depression; aid digestion and relieve constipation; and
prepare your body for labor. After pregnancy, exercise may help prevent a
dropped uterus, regain and maintain vaginal and abdominal muscle tone, and
prevent urinary incontinence and lower back pain. A recent study reported that
women who practiced "vigorous exercise" three times a week after giving birth
had an easier adjustment to motherhood, greater involvement in social and
leisure activities, and more overall satisfaction with their lives.
Some women are concerned that exercise may cause them to deliver early.
However, even vigorous exercise has not been shown to increase the risk of
pre-term delivery. In fact, highly conditioned exercisers have the same rate of
timely deliveries as their unconditioned peers. In addition, experts say that
healthy women should exercise during pregnancy without fear of compromising
fetal growth and development.
You should discuss your exercise goals with your doctor during and after your
pregnancy and be sure to get his or her approval on any exercise program before
you start. You should, of course, avoid exercise that may cause you to fall or
be jostled, such as horseback riding, skiing, and rollerblading. Otherwise,
there are some basic guidelines to follow:
If you are unable to talk normally during exercise, it's too
After 20 weeks of pregnancy, avoid doing any exercises lying on your
Avoid strenuous exercise in hot, humid weather or when you have a
Wear comfortable clothing that will help you stay cool.
Wear a well-fitting, supportive bra.
Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and
Be sure to get the extra 300 calories a day required during
Stop exercising if you experience any of the following:
Vaginal bleeding or fluid discharge
Dizziness or feeling faint
Uterine contractions and chest pain
For your baby and your body, the evidence is clear: exercise will help you
Pregnancy Fitness by the editors of Fitness Magazine and Ginny Graves
(Three Rivers Press 1999)
Your Pregnancy Workout: The Essential Guide to Staying Firm, Fit, and
Healthy by Emma Scattergood (Sterling Publications 1998)
Fit for Two: The Official YMCA Prenatal Exercise Guide by Thomas
Hanlon and YMCA of the USA (Human Kinetics 1995)
American Medical Association Web site.
"Maternal Leisure-Time Exercise and Timely Delivery," American Journal of
Public Health, October 1998.
"Training in Pregnant Women: Effects on Fetal Development and Birth,"
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, February 1998. Available
Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction's Web site.
"Exercise." Available at: http://cerhr.niehs.nih.gov/.
Sampselle CM, Seng J, Yeo S, Killion C, Oakley D. Physical activity and
postpartum well-being. JOGNN.
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