Sunday, February 2, 2014

Guest Blogger Mark Taylor On Pregnancy Fitness

How to stay healthy and fit during pregnancy

Becoming pregnant can be a trigger for women and their partners to take steps to improve their health. It can be hard to make some healthy choices but the benefits for you and your baby are huge.
Good nutrition during pregnancy, and enough of it, is very important for your baby to grow and develop. You should consume about 300 more calories per day than you did before you became pregnant. Although nausea and vomiting during the first few months of pregnancy can make this difficult, try to eat a well-balanced diet and take prenatal vitamins. 
Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy and feel your best. Regular exercise during pregnancy can improve your posture and decrease some common discomforts such as backaches and fatigue. There is evidence that physical activity may prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), relieve stress, and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery.

If you were physically active before your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity in moderation. Don't try to exercise at your former level; instead, do what's most comfortable for you now. If you have never exercised regularly before, you can safely begin with some kind of fitness training during pregnancy after consulting with your prenatal-care specialist, but do not try a new, strenuous activity.

The following 8 types of exercise are safe in pregnancy, though some may not be suitable for the last few months, and you may need to lessen the activity as your pregnancy progresses. Talk to your doctor, midwife or a physiotherapist before starting any exercise that's new to you.

Whether you're on a trail or a treadmill, walking can safely help tone your muscles and improve your mood. It's also something most women can do right up to delivery. If you're just starting, try walking a semi-swift mile three days a week. Increase your time and speed a little each week, and build in hills as you get stronger. Aim to walk for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. So walk to the shops rather than drive, take the bus only part of the way, or do a brisk few laps of the park or pavements in your lunch hour. 

·         SWIMMING
Swimming is an ideal, and safe, form of exercise in pregnancy. It exercises your arms and legs, and works your heart and lungs. The bigger your bump gets, the more you’ll enjoy feeling weightless in the water.
If you enjoy group activity, you could join an aquanatal class or aqua aerobics class. Exercising while standing in water is gentle on your joints and supports your bump. It can help to ease back pain and swelling in your legs in late pregnancy.

·         YOGA
Yoga encourages relaxation, focus, and paying attention to your breathing — so it's just about perfect for pregnancy (and great preparation for childbirth). Be sure to select a class that's specifically tailored to expecting women (or ask your instructor how to modify poses so that they're safe for you — for instance, you won't be able to exercise on your back after the fourth month). One important caveat: avoid Bikram yoga during pregnancy. It's done in a hot room, and you need to pass on any exercises that raise your temperature more than one and a half to two degrees (this reduces blood flow to the uterus). 

·         PILATES
Pilates is similar to yoga in that it's a low- to no-impact discipline that improves your flexibility, strength, and muscle tone. Your pilates teacher will guide you on your posture, making you aware of how you hold your body. She’ll take you through a series of positions and movements that will strengthen your core muscles. You’ll learn how to time your breathing with the exercises, and how to relax. Pilates targets the muscles that can weaken during pregnancy, in a way that supports, rather than strains, them. Choose an antenatal pilates class, if there's one in your area. 

Light strength training can help you stay toned before and after delivery. If you were lifting weights before you got pregnant, chances are you can keep going as long as you go easy. Avoid heavy weights or routines where you have to lie flat on your back. If you weren't strength training before you got pregnant, find another exercise for now.

·         AEROBICS
Aerobics keep your heart and lungs strong, tone your body all over, and give you a burst of endorphins, a feel-good brain chemical. If you are an avid exerciser, the key is to lower the intensity of your workout to fit your changing body. If you're a beginner, look for a low-impact aerobics class taught by a certified aerobics teacher.

This simple routine can help improve your posture (every pregnant woman can use help with that), strengthen your abs (thus reducing back pain), and help prepare you for labor (with those
stronger stomach muscles and more flexible back muscles). To do a pelvic tilt, stand with your back against a wall and relax your spine. As you inhale, press the small of your back against the wall. Exhale, and then repeat several times. For a variation that also helps reduce the pain of sciatica, try rocking your pelvis back and forth — keeping your back straight — while either kneeling on all fours or standing up. Do pelvic tilts regularly (take a five-minute pelvic-tilt break several times during your workday).

Kegels — exercises to help strengthen your pelvic floor, a muscle group that controls the flow of urine and the contraction of the vagina and anal sphincter, that can be weakened by the pressures of pregnancy and delivery — may be done any time of the day or night, no matter what else you're in the middle of doing. And there are compelling reasons to do them. First, they prevent urinary incontinence, a pretty common complaint late in pregnancy and during postpartum. Second, they can tone your pelvic floor in preparation for labor and delivery — and possibly help you avoid an episiotomy. To do them, squeeze your pelvic muscles as if you're trying to stop urinating or passing gas. Hold for five seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times, five times a day.

While exercise during pregnancy is good for you, some activities come with more risk than reward. Avoid contact sports such as basketball, hockey, and soccer. They can injure you or your baby. And skip activities that increase your risk of falling, such as outdoor bicycling, roller-skating, downhill skiing, and horseback riding.

Being active during pregnancy gives you more energy and stamina. Strengthening your muscles and your heart can help you feel stronger and more capable of accomplishing your goals. Exercise also helps you sleep by relieving stress and anxiety that might otherwise keep you awake. And a good night's sleep gives you more energy to face the day.
Again, before attempting anything to stay fit, consult your prenatal-care specialist and get an informed opinion based on your own personal history and capability. Remember that every pregnancy is as unique as the individual mother who is expecting, thus making general advice difficult.

Mark Taylor is a freelance blogger and web enthusiast with a keen interest in Martial Arts & Fitness. Mark is a regular blogger for UMA, Melbourne based Ultimate Martial Arts & Fitnessschool.

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