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A fit pregnancy: Exercise dos and don'ts

When you're pregnant, chances are you'll feel like relaxing and putting your feet up. And yes, rest is good. After all, your body is working overtime these days to nourish the growing life inside you.

But remember, while rest can be a pick-me-up, so can regular exercise. A key part of a healthy pregnancy is exercise, notes the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Here's a look at exercise's payoffs, plus some tips for keeping you and your baby safe.

How can exercise help?

Being active while pregnant can improve your health in several ways, note the college and the March of Dimes. It can:

  • Reduce backaches, constipation and swelling.
  • Boost energy.
  • Improve your mood.
  • Help you sleep better.
  • Promote muscle tone, strength and endurance.
  • Lower the risk of health problems such as high blood pressure.
  • Help build stamina for labor and delivery.

Is it safe?

In general, it's probably fine to exercise while pregnant. But that's only if you have no serious medical problems and no complications, says the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Talk with your doctor before you start a fitness routine while you're pregnant.

Which type is best?

Some of the safest types of exercise include low-impact activities. They don't involve a lot of bouncing and they avoid extreme muscle stretching and deep joint bending. Here are some bump-friendly workouts:

  • Brisk walking. You'll get aerobic benefits and you won't need special equipment (other than a good pair of shoes).
  • Swimming. The water supports the weight of your growing body and provides resistance that helps bring up your heart rate.
  • Modified yoga. Many classes are designed for pregnant women. It can help reduce stress and improve flexibility, and encourage focused breathing.

What should I be careful about?

Avoid activities that increase the risk of falls or injury. Remember, even mild injuries to the abdominal area can be serious during pregnancy. So steer clear of contact sports that put you at risk of a hit to the abdomen, such as ice hockey, soccer and basketball. Also, do not participate in:

  • Skydiving.
  • Activities that may result in a fall, such as downhill skiing, snowboarding, water skiing, surfing or horseback riding.
  • Hot yoga or hot Pilates, which may cause overheating.

After your third month of pregnancy, avoid exercises that require you to lie on your back. The weight of your baby can interfere with blood circulation.

Remember to pay close attention to your body as you exercise. Don't exercise to the point that you feel exhausted.

If you weren't exercising before you became pregnant, start slowly. And build your level of fitness gradually. You might, for instance, begin by exercising five minutes a day. Then add five minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.

More pregnancy news

It's common for women to worry about weight gain during pregnancy. If you're wondering how much is too little or too much, check out our guide on healthy weight gain during pregnancy.

Reviewed 12/18/2023

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