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Staying fit and active is a worthy goal, even when you're pregnant. While running a marathon might not be in the cards when you're with child, a regular, light to moderate exercise can help you maintain your fitness level and keep your energy and strength up as you approach the all-important delivery day.
Walk It Out, Baby
Walking on a treadmill is one of the best exercises for pregnant women because it's a low-impact workout with minimal risk of injury. Most women can continue a treadmill walking routine throughout all three trimesters. Jogging and running are safe for most women in the first and second trimesters, but these high-impact activities are usually discouraged in the third trimester due to balance issues caused by a rapidly-growing baby belly. Treadmills make interval workouts easier. These types of exercise sessions vary short high-intensity bursts with short rest periods of lower-intensity to help you maintain your body temperature and adjust your workout to your energy and fitness levels.
"Parents" magazine recommends a treadmill workout consisting of a five-minute warm-up walk, followed by a faster five-minute speed interval and a slower two-minute recovery period. Repeating the five-minute higher-intensity intervals with the two-minute recovery mini-session two more times and ending with a five-minute cool-down and stretch gives you a 30-minute workout that will help keep you fit without undue stress on your joints and baby.
Each trimester brings additional physical changes you'll have to compensate for to continue working out on a treadmill safely. Throughout your pregnancy it's important to wear supportive shoes that support your arches and help stabilize your ankles. Staying hydrated is also important in every trimester, so be sure to keep cool drinking water whenever you hop on the treadmill. Your balance may start to shift during the second and third trimesters, so proper posture is particularly important beginning in your fourth month of pregnancy. Keep your back and neck straight and upright with your hips lined up under your shoulders. Swinging your arms while walking can help you keep your balance and bring additional intensity to your workouts.
Most pregnant women can exercise safely at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes a day, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. If you were highly active prior to conceiving, you're more likely to be able to continue jogging, running or working out at high incline levels on a treadmill. You can still incorporate healthy treadmill workouts into your pregnancy routine even if you were sedentary. If you're an exercise beginner, you'll want to start slow and work your way up to 20- to 30-minute workouts as your fitness level increases. Always check with your doctor or midwife before beginning or modifying an exercise regimen during pregnancy.
Staying in tune with your body is particularly important when exercising during pregnancy. While you're unlikely to sustain injuries on a treadmill with proper footwear and a speed and incline you can keep up with, injuries aren't the only things that can be harmful to you and your baby. Don't exercise to the point of breathlessness, as this reduces oxygen levels to your baby. Stay well-hydrated and wear light, comfortable clothes to prevent overheating, which can lead to dehydration. Opt for more frequent, shorter workouts instead of going for hour-long marathon sessions on the treadmill. Raising your heart rate for too long can reduce blood flow to your baby, according to Dr. Andrew J. Satin, professor and vice chairman of the department of gynecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. It's important to keep your doctor or midwife in the loop. Every pregnancy and woman is different, and only your health care provider can tell you what is specifically safe for you and your baby.
About the Author
Amanda Knaebel is a self-professed gadget geek and loves all things tech, both new and old. Amanda has been working as a freelance writer for over 10 years on topics including technology, health, fitness, nutrition, gardening and many more. She has also worked with Fortune 50 tech and financial companies, both in technical support and content production.