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Cindy Says: Keeping fit for two

By Cindy Boggs

Dear Cindy,

I am 34, just starting into my second trimester of pregnancy and have always been active. I do a variety of cardio (fitness classes, treadmill and bike) and strength training (weights are used in some of the classes I attend). I work out three to four times a week and this is my first pregnancy.

I feel really good and my doctor has not given me any restrictions, but I am wondering if I should keep doing the same thing or change it in some way? - Kimberly D.

Dear Kimberly,

Pregnancy is one of the most health conscious times of a woman's life. Even women who don't exercise regularly focus on incorporating healthier habits during these important nine months. It is a time when the pay-off for good choices is doubled - with a healthy baby and also a healthy, more energetic you.

Entering the second trimester of pregnancy usually means you are feeling more like yourself again, resting better, tolerating foods and regaining your normal energy level. With your commitment to exercise you enter with a head start on health. Chances are you will ease through this pregnancy and delivery and bounce back in a shorter amount of time.

In fact, exercising regularly has been shown to decrease incidence of excessive maternal weight gain, swelling, pregnancy induced hypertension, deep vein thrombosis, dyspnea, gestational diabetes mellitus, cramps, fatigue and back pain.

The guidelines for prenatal exercise, barring any complications during pregnancy, are just the same as for the general population.

The most recent evidence strongly recommends regular physical activity and says mothers-to-be can maintain or even improve cardiovascular and muscular fitness.

 Aerobic exercise such as walking, hiking, jogging, dance, swimming, cycling, rowing may be appropriate. Strength training is believed to be safe if weight is kept low through a normal range of motion.

Yoga is a wonderful way to keep the body strong during pregnancy.

So, what precautions should you heed during the next five to six months?

  • Always warm up gradually before and stretch gently following exercise.
  • Whether experienced or novice you should avoid weight training while lying flat on your back after the first trimester because it can constrict blood flow to your uterus. Using an inclined bench or a stability ball is a good alternative.
  • Resistance machines are set up to put your body in proper form and to isolate the right muscles, making them a great choice and are usually recommended over free weights to minimize the amount of stabilization required of the abdomen. Using resistance bands is a great option as well.
  • This is one time it is a good idea to do more repetitions with lighter weight.
  • Avoid weighted walking lunges to avoid the risk of injury to connective tissue in the pelvic area.
  • Never hold your breath during strength training. Inhale deeply on the easiest part of the exercise and exhale fully on the exertion or hardest part of the lift.
  • With regard to cardiovascular intensity, relying solely on a heart rate monitor is not advised. Rather, assessing exercise intensity by "perceived exertion" and working from "fairly light" to "somewhat hard" are safe ranges for prenatal activity.
  • Participating in activities that increase your risk of falling and/or abdominal trauma or place excessive stress on your joints - racquet sports, volleyball, skiing, basketball, softball - is not recommended.
  • Because of ligament laxity, limit excessive stretching including ballistic stretches.
  • When the weather is hot, exercise in the early morning or late evening to help prevent you from getting overheated.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water, even if you don't feel thirsty.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains. 
  • In terms of frequency and time, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women participate in 30 or more minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

    Finally, remember to pay attention to what's going on physically as your body adjusts to your growing baby. If you're feeling muscle strain or excessive fatigue, modify the moves you're doing and/or reduce the frequency of your workouts.

    Pregnancy isn't the time to push yourself to your limits. It is, however, the time to stay physically active, hydrated and well-nourished so that when that when delivery time arrives, you'll have energy to spare.


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