Exercise and pregnancy: What can I do?
September 25, 2008
There are many benefits to prenatal exercise. Exercise can help decrease or prevent the following impairments (which taint that pregnancy glow!!!): swelling, fatigue, constipation, leg cramps, varicose veins, back pain, gestational diabetes, urinary incontinence, and depression. By engaging in a regular exercise program, you can sustain or increase your cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, posture, circulation, endurance, mood states, energy levels, and self-esteem. Therefore, every mom-to-be must make time in her schedule for regular exercise. Please consult with your physician or medical practitioner before engaging in an exercise program, for there may be important pregnancy-specific guidelines for you based upon the health of you and your baby. Talk to your doctor about the relative and absolute contraindications to exercise as outlined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Sports Medicine. Here are some very important warning signs that indicate when to discontinue exercise and seek medical advice: 1. Any sign of bloody discharge or ‘gush’ of fluid2. Sudden swelling of the ankles, hands or face (possible preeclampsia) 3. Faintness or dizziness4. Swelling, pain, or redness in calf5. Elevation of pulse rate or blood pressure that persists after exercise6. Premature labor7. Unexplained abdominal pain8. Shortness of breath prior to exertion9. Chest pain The question remains what can you do? And the answer is to exercise in moderation. A 10 to 15 minute warm-up is very important to gradually increase your heart rate and respiratory rate while increasing the blood supply to your muscles. Your cardio section should consist of low impact exercise at an intensity not to surpass that of your pre-pregnancy workouts. Your heart rate must remain below 140 beats per minute so blood carrying the oxygen and nutrients to your baby is not shunted away. Do not exercise to fatigue, making sure you hydrate every 15 minutes. Do not exercise outdoors in less than 80 degrees or 50 percent humidity. Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes allowing the skin to be exposed to the air to allow for heat loss. Exercise at your own risk and, more importantly, that of your baby. High risk activities to avoid include skiing, skateboarding, rock climbing, scuba diving, horseback riding, road or mountain biking. Remember, just because your friend alpine skied Berthoud Pass 9 months pregnant doesn’t mean it is a good decision to put yourself and your baby at risk for injury.The cool-down should consist of about 10 minutes of decreasing activity, strengthening and stretching of major muscle groups, and deep breathing. You can continue an upper extremity weightlifting program; however, make certain to breathe appropriately, exhaling with exertion, protect your spine with stabilization, and change the focus of the muscles you are working. It should not be a priority to ‘max out’ with weights. Instead, aim for three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. Pilates and yoga can be very beneficial with proper instruction in private sessions and/or in prenatal-specific classes only. (You must not perform exercise lying on your back during the second and third trimesters.) So, enjoy the mountain air, enjoy your workouts, and take care of your body for you and your baby.
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