More and more women are continuing their exercise programs when pregnant. Charlotte Case, 34, gave birth to her daughter, India, two weeks ago and continued her workout until shortly before the birth. "I was swimming, doing body conditioning, and walking all through my pregnancy," she says. Case only stopped her daily swim two days before her daughter was born, and she continued her body conditioning classes until eight weeks before delivery. "I was quite careful during the first three months and would say that the swimming definitely helped keep me fit and supple," she says.
In her book Healthy Pregnancy, Dr. Miriam Stoppard states that exercising while pregnant has several benefits, including reducing weight gain during pregnancy and making it easier to lose weight after the birth. Plus exercise improves a woman's emotional and physical well-being by releasing endorphins and increasing energy levels. Exercise also prepares women for the work of childbirth.
Marcelle Falconer, 27, also exercised throughout her pregnancy—specifically walking and using weights—and has continued since the birth of her daughter 11 months ago. She is now back to her full program, which includes circuit, weights, cycling, and cross training. She adds that while she was pregnant, exercising helped keep her energy levels up, although she was careful not to overdo it.
According to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines, pregnant women are encouraged to engage in 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week.
Dr. Maggie Blott, a consultant obstetrician at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, England, recommends that women continue some form of exercise throughout pregnancy. She says that most of her patients do so and that "any exercise is good as long as it is comfortable and safe."
What to Try
Golf, bicycling (especially on a stationary bicycle where there is less chance of falling), dance, and stretching are commonly recommended activities for expectant moms because they help maintain muscle tone and flexibility. But the real winners for effective, beneficial, and safe exercise while pregnant are walking, swimming, and yoga or Pilates.
Walking is one of the best cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women as it helps maintain good digestion and circulation. Marcelle Falconer found walking was excellent exercise when she was suffering from morning sickness. "Because I only had mild morning sickness, I was able to carry on exercising and actually found that walking seemed to take my mind off how I was feeling," she says. "It definitely helped, and I was very careful not to get too hot or over-exert myself at any stage."
Dr. Blott agrees that walking is good exercise for pregnant women because "it is comfortable, easy, and very safe."