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Exercise Your Way to a Healthy Pregnancy

You don't have to give up exercising just because you're pregnant. Most women who become pregnant can follow a modified fitness program with their doctor's approval.

Get the OK

The first step toward a pregnancy fitness program is to talk with your health care provider to make sure it's safe for you to exercise while you're pregnant, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says. If your provider gives his or her OK, discuss which exercises are appropriate for you. Gentle exercise during pregnancy can help you feel better overall and help you maintain a healthy weight.

Women who exercised before pregnancy usually can walk 30 minutes a day. Expectant mothers just beginning a program should walk 10 to 15 minutes every other day and increase this time gradually. When you exercise, your activity should not cause you pain, shortness of breath or excessive fatigue, the AAFP says.

Other types of exercise that usually are compatible with pregnancy are swimming and stationary cycling.

Don't get overheated

If the weather is warm or hot, do any outdoor exercise in early morning or late evening to avoid getting overheated, the AAFP says. When exercising indoors during warm weather, make sure the room has good ventilation. Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don't think you're thirsty.

Avoid falls

Because pregnancy shifts your center of gravity, you should avoid biking, step aerobics, horseback riding, skiing, and any other exercise that could cause a fall.

Be careful with ab exercises

Performing unmodified abdominal crunches during pregnancy can injure and tear abdominal muscles, causing serious harm. Talk to your provider about how to modify crunches during pregnancy. After the first trimester, you should avoid exercising while lying on your back because the baby's weight may affect your blood circulation, the AAFP says.

Exercise your pelvic muscles

Exercising your pelvic floor from the time you conceive can help ease your labor and delivery. Pelvic-floor exercises are called Kegel exercises, which, when done correctly, involve tightening, squeezing, and lifting the muscles between the pelvis and tailbone.

Pelvic tilts are also beneficial. These help strengthen the abdominal and back muscles and prevent backache during pregnancy. You can do tilts while standing by squeezing your buttock muscles and rolling your hips forward.

After delivery, regular exercise can help you get back in shape, but don't resume your fitness program until your provider says it is safe.