Exercise is important both during pregnancy and after, but many new moms are afraid of what effects exercise may have on their babies and their own bodies. And there are limitations to what you should do during and immediately following pregnancy; this isn’t the time for extreme sports or a demanding aerobics class. However, if you combine some simple toning and strengthening exercises with a safe cardiovascular activity, you can maintain a fit body throughout the whole process of pregnancy and birth.
You can’t prevent changes in your body during pregnancy, but you can help yourself stay as toned as possible even as your belly expands. Regular exercise throughout pregnancy and during the postpartum period helps you stay healthy both physically and mentally; it aids you in maintaining healthy weight gain, helps you keep energy levels up and, according to DepressionCenter.org, can even decrease the occurrence of postpartum depression.
Toning and cardiovascular activities not only provide muscle toning and strengthening, but they also help you maintain your balance and flexibility during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Prenatal pilates and yoga moves, according to Dr. Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler, authors of “Your Pregnancy Quick Guide to Fitness and Exercise” can help relieve muscle tension and improve balance.
Kegels are important both during and after pregnancy as a way of strengthening your pelvic muscles. These exercises, according to Curtis and Schuler, help relax your vaginal muscles for delivery and can help get your pelvic muscles back into shape faster after birth.
Cardio activities suitable for pregnancy and postpartum include walking, swimming, water aerobics and low-impact aerobics.
For toning and strengthening exercises, use light weights and forgo any moves that require you to lay flat on your back. Instead, opt for standing or sitting strengthening exercises such as biceps curls, triceps dips and lunges.
As pregnancy progresses, you won’t be able to exercise with the same intensity, speed or longevity that you may have enjoyed pre-pregnancy. This is also true during the postpartum period. After the birth of your baby, you’ll want to start back into your exercise routine slowly and build up. According to Curtis and Schuler, your aerobic capacity can increase by 20 percent in the first 6 weeks following the birth of your baby. That’s great news, because regular exercise will help you increase your energy levels. You’ll want to talk to your doctor, though, for specific instructions regarding your body during the postpartum exercises, especially if you had any complications during delivery or delivered via C-section.
Pregnancy isn’t the time to take on an intense weight-training routine or start learning a new, high-impact sport. Your body is changing rapidly during pregnancy, and it affects your balance and stamina. Be sure to hold on to a chair for support while performing exercises that require you to stand. Keep your breathing regular and deep throughout. Stay hydrated by carrying a bottle of water with you and drinking water both before and after workouts.