4. Walking for Health

Walking can be a great low-impact aerobic activity during pregnancy. It is an exercise that is safe, easy to do, and inexpensive. If the weather is less than optimal, you can try a treadmill or roam around your local shopping mall. You can vary the pace, add moderate hills, and add distance when you need too. As with any exercise, you should start slow and increase your pace and distance as you feel you can. You can add a warmup by walking slowly for the first five minutes and add a cool-down by using five minutes at the end to gradually decrease your pace.

Follow some of these tips for an effective walking program:

• Watch your posture as you walk. Stand up straight, lead with your chest, and use your abdominal muscles to support your back.

• Look ahead at the ground a few steps ahead of you and not straight down, which can strain your neck and spoil your posture.

• Get your arms moving to give your walk an extra cardiovascular kick. Move your arms from the shoulders, and don’t swing them higher than your chest or across your body’s midpoint.

• Take small strides. Long ones can hurt your hips and pelvic area, which are usually loosened by pregnancy hormones during pregnancy.

• Use a pace that is comfortable for your stage of pregnancy and keeps your heart rate at a safe and steady beat. Don’t try to conquer steep hills that may send your heart rate soaring and put undue stress on your back.

• Invest in good athletic walking shoes that are comfortable, supportive, and fit your feet properly. If you have some swelling in your feet, you may need a larger size than usual.

• Avoid uneven terrain, such as beaches and trails, since your center of balance will shift as you become larger and you are more prone to fall. Avoid other dangerous terrain such as ice or wet pavement.

• If the weather outside is too hot and humid, opt to use an indoor treadmill, or walk at the mall.

• Find a walking partner. It can make walking more fun and can also be a safety net if something happens while you were walking.

Your center of gravity shifts during pregnancy. This makes it necessary to take extra precautions when changing positions such as getting up from the floor, exercise equipment, or from a chair. Getting up too quickly can make you dizzy and cause you to lose your balance, so move slowly.

5. Know Your Limits

Part of a safe exercise program is knowing your limits. You need to pay attention to your body’s signals and stop when your body is telling you to stop. It’s not good for you or your baby to exercise to the point of exhaustion, breathlessness, or overheating. Warning signs that tell you to stop exercising and/or call your doctor include the following:

• Vaginal bleeding or amniotic fluid leakage

• Preterm labor or decreased fetal movement

• Dizziness or fainting, muscle weakness, or difficult or labored breathing prior to exertion

• Increased swelling in hands, feet, and/or ankles

• Headache, chest pain, calf pain or swelling

• Vomiting, nausea, or abdominal pain

6. Yeah for Yoga

Yoga can be a great exercise for flexibility, relaxation, muscle tone, posture, balance, breathing control, and developing concentration. All of these factors can help during pregnancy and again during delivery. Yoga combined with a low-impact cardiovascular exercise such as walking can round out a great exercise program. You can join a pregnancy yoga class or pick up a video specifically made for pregnant women. If you have never tried yoga before, be sure to start at the beginners’ level. Yoga can be done at all different intensity levels, but while you are pregnant, you should concentrate on poses that are soothing, gentle, and fun. You want to make sure you avoid supine positions, or positions on your back, after the third month. After your belly begins to grow, avoid positions that have you lying face down. As with any exercise program, consult with your doctor before you begin.

One of the essentials of yoga is breathing. In yoga you learn to breathe fully by taking in air slowly through the nose, filling your lungs entirely, and exhaling completely. Learning how to master this type of breathing can be twofold, helping you to prepare for labor and delivery.

When taking a yoga class, look for an instructor who is specially trained in prenatal yoga. Some yoga moves can be tricky, so if you feel pain or discomfort, make needed adjustments. Do not hold poses for too long, and move into and out of yoga positions slowly and carefully to avoid any injury or lightheadedness. As you become larger in your third trimester, use a chair or other sturdy prop for support to avoid losing your balance. Equipment such as blocks and straps can help you to more easily move through different poses with better stability. Avoid poses that are difficult and that you may not be familiar with as well as those that stretch the abdominal muscles too much. It is important to be extra careful because you are more prone to tearing and/or straining muscles and ligaments while pregnant.

7. Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises can be very helpful once you get to the delivery room. Kegel or pelvic-floor muscle exercises are internal exercises that can be done to help strengthen the muscles that control your urethra, bladder, uterus, and rectum. This exercise strengthens the pelvic floor so that during delivery you are able to push more efficiently. Strengthening these muscles can also assist your body in recovering quicker after delivery. They can help with bladder control problems that many women experience after childbirth.

Kegels are done most simply by contracting and holding the muscles that are used to stop the flow of urine. Try to do Kegels in sets of ten, and work up to three to four sets about three times each day. Start out slow, and work your way up as these muscles become stronger. Make sure you are doing the exercises correctly. If you are not sure, ask your doctor.

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