Your health and wellness are priorities during pregnancy. Exercise is an important component of maintaining your health during pregnancy, but should not be used as a tool to make significant changes. In other words, your gym workouts focus on improving your mood, increasing your energy, reducing any discomfort and maintaining your muscle tissue instead of concentrating on losing weight, building muscle and exercising for hours on end.
Aerobic, also known as cardiovascular, exercises use continuous movements of your large muscle groups to increase your heart and breathing rates. Aerobic exercises such as treadmill walking, stationary cycling, elliptical trainer pedaling, swimming, water aerobics and low-impact aerobic classes are all safe and effective during pregnancy. Plan your workouts by keeping in mind your fitness level before you were pregnant. If you jogged regularly, your doctor may say it is acceptable for you to jog during pregnancy. If you were not a regular exerciser, walk first to determine how your body responds. Aim to exercise aerobically for 15 to 30 minutes, three times a week. Exercise at an intensity level at which you can carry on a conversation.
Strength-training workouts are used to maintain your muscle tissue during pregnancy. The amount of weight you lift should allow you to complete one to two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. At the end of 15 repetitions your muscles feel tired, but not weakened to the point of exhaustion. As you lift, exhale when you move the weight against gravity, or up, and inhale as you lower the weight. Avoid standing in place for too long -- march or shift your feet side-to-side as you perform dumbbell exercises such as biceps curls and triceps extensions. This keeps the blood circulating and reduces the chances of you passing out. Perform your resistance training exercises one or two days a week with at least one day of rest in between workouts. Aim to exercise each muscle group including the chest, back, arms, shoulders and legs.
Stretching exercises can help alleviate a tight back, sore legs and achy calves. At the conclusion of your workouts, spend a total of five to 10 minutes stretching your muscles for 15 to 30 seconds each. For example, clasp your hands behind your back to stretch your chest, or bend your knee and hold your ankle near your bum to stretch your thigh. Or, attend a yoga class for relaxation and flexibility benefits, but inform the teacher that you are pregnant so she can offer modifications when needed.
Exercise during pregnancy should be enjoyable, so if you experience any discomfort, bleeding, dizziness or nausea, stop your workouts. Avoid high-impact or dangerous activities such as jumping or activities that risk falling such as road cycling, skiing or skating. Also, after your first trimester, do not exercise lying flat on your back. This includes sit-ups, and certain yoga poses. The supine position has the potential to decrease blood flow to your baby. Always check with your doctor before you begin any exercise program, but especially if you have high blood pressure, an incompetent cervix, bleeding or a multiple-pregnancy. And make sure to stay hydrated with water.
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