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Pregnancy Fitness


Most experts agree that women who exercise during pregnancy feel better, look better, and get back into shape faster after their babies are born than women who do not exercise. There are two basic types of exercise - sustained and conditioning. Running, walking, and bicycling are popular kinds of sustained exercise.

Sustained Exercise:
During sustained exercise, the heart rate increases and thus strengthens the heart and lungs (cardiopulmonary system). Also during sustained exercise, breathing becomes deeper, resulting in more oxygen getting into the bloodstream. This means that more oxygen gets to the baby as well. Walking is an excellent exercise for pregnant women. A brisk walk of 15-20 minutes each day helps develop cardiovascular strength and uses almost every muscle in the body. Even women with little extra time can usually find some time to walk. Bicycling (ideally a stationary bicycle for safety reasons) is another excellent sustained exercise. In addition to improving cardiovascular strength, it develops the abdominal muscles that support the baby. Swimming is unique because the buoyancy of the water helps support the baby, thus allowing you to use your leg, arm and back muscles more freely. Swimming for 15-20 minutes several times a week builds muscle tone and strength.

Conditioning Exercise:
Conditioning exercises are designed to improve the muscle tone of specific areas - in this case, those areas involved in childbirth - and to relieve tension and minor discomforts. Do all of the following exercises slowly and smoothly; jerky movements can overstretch tendons and ligaments, and possibly dislocate joints. In the beginning, do each exercise only two or three times per session. Increase the number of repititions (reps) gradually until you reach the recommended amount. For maximum benefit, exercise twice a day. Make sure you continue to breathe normally as you exercise. Do not hold your breath. For ease of practice, do the exercises in the order they are given.

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