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“I thought I was going to bake my baby by working out!” That’s just one of the many concerns that I have heard from mothers-to-be about whether to exercise or not during pregnancy.

Unfortunately many women don’t find the answers from the medical community. In fact, when this mother asked her doctor about how to stay fit while pregnant, she told her she didn’t know.

Many women live active lifestyles before becoming pregnant. They maintain challenging jobs, have busy schedules and usually fit in some kind of fitness routine. But once they get pregnant, that last component is suddenly taken away. Doctors err on the side of caution even in low risk pregnancies. They often respond vaguely about exercise -- possibly out of fear of bearing the responsibility for something going wrong. Suddenly, the fitness routine that provided stress relief, a social community and endorphins that keep women sane and happy are taken away. At a time when they could really use it.

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Of course, the pendulum of what women consider doable during pregnancy swings wide, too. Whether you can engage in more strenuous activities (we’ve seen some moms run marathons pregnant!) depends largely on whether your pregnancy is low risk and how much exercise you did before getting pregnant. But even if you weren’t a very active person before, staying fit now will keep you sane and the baby healthy, aid with delivery, and speed up your recovery postpartum.

To help you get more comfortable exercising safely while pregnant, here’s a list of 4 Do’s and 4 Don’ts for fitness while pregnant:

PREGNANCY FITNESS DO’S

  1. DO put your legs up the wall later in your second and in your third trimester. Prop your hips up and rest your legs against a wall. This pose will help with swollen ankles, painful feet and calm the nervous system.
  2. DO engage in postures and activities that promote balance and strength. Whether you do bird-dogs on all fours extending opposite arm and leg, or yoga postures that require balance, as long as you do them near a wall, these will promote good posture and make you feel more aligned.
  3. DO functional strength movements to support your expanding hips and belly. Your center of gravity shifts, often your pelvic can shift too, and you are carrying a significant amount of extra weight. Light strength training can help prevent postpartum incontinence and back pain, and get you back to exercising sooner.
  4. DO swim or go for brisk walks. One of my clients even walked around the house with ankle weights. The extra amount of blood during pregnancy also means that you carry more oxygen which is a natural performance booster. Some experts believe that the reason elite athletes bounce back stronger post pregnancy is because they had 10 months of building a fitness base with all that extra blood.

PREGNANCY FITNESS DON’TS

  1. DON'T lie on your back for extended periods of time. Many health practitioners that teach classes don’t pay attention to this number one rule of prenatal fitness. Lying on your back can cut off blood supply to the baby so your hips should be elevated when you do.
  2. DON'T engage in any exercises that could cause slips, trips and falls. This one seems common sense, but you may feel so great earlier in your pregnancy that this may not cross your mind. Especially during the first trimester, the risk of miscarriage is heightened as the baby implants itself in the uterine wall.
  3. DON'T do deep twists, backbends or overstretch. Your ligaments and joints loosen during pregnancy. To ensure fewer problems postpartum like, pelvic instability, sciatica and hyper mobility in the joints, be ok with saying no. Pregnancy is not the time to prove that you can push your body. Remind yourself and if need be your teachers.
  4. DON'T begin a new endurance regimen. If you didn’t run or spin before pregnancy, now is not the time to start a strenuous routine because you fear weight gain (let’s be honest) and over exert yourself in a new sport.

I hope this advice is helpful for you and would love to hear the weirdest thing you believed or heard about exercising during pregnancy. Tell us in the comments.

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