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Workout Programs for Pregnant Women

By Kristen Fisher

While many women treat pregnancy as a time to kick back and relax, staying active during pregnancy pays off in both the short- and long-term. Not only can exercise boost your energy, help you sleep and prevent aches and pains during pregnancy, it builds your strength and endurance for labor and helps you get fit quicker after you give birth. Knowing how to work out during each trimester can help you stay fit safely all nine months of your pregnancy.

First Trimester

Early in pregnancy, your workout routine should include at least 30 minutes of cardio most days of the week, as well as strength training two to three times per week. If you exercised regularly before getting pregnant, you can probably continue with your usual routine, as long as you have your doctor's permission. But if you're new to exercise or just want to change up your routine, try walking, swimming, low-impact aerobics, riding a stationary bike or water-aerobics, which are some of the safest forms of exercise for pregnant women. Your strength-training workouts should target all of your major muscle groups using light dumbbells, resistance bands or just your own body weight; if you lifted weights before pregnancy, switch to lighter dumbbells and increase the number of repetitions. During the first trimester, you can continue to do regular abdominal exercises just as you did before pregnancy.

Second Trimester

Some women experience a burst of energy in the second trimester, while others start feeling sluggish, uncomfortable and heavy. Adapt your workout program to how you feel; you should still aim for 30 minutes of daily cardio and two or three weekly strength-training sessions but if your body is telling you to scale back the intensity of your workouts and lift lighter weights, listen to it. You should continue to target your abdominal muscles in your second trimester but it's no longer safe to lie flat on your back, reports the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Try modified ab exercises like planks, standing pelvic tilts and side-lying crunches.

Third Trimester

You should try to remain active during the third trimester but don't push yourself to keep up your previous workout routine; if the most you can manage during these final weeks is a daily stroll around the block, that's great. Since you shouldn't be lifting heavy weights prenatal yoga offers a great muscle-strengthening alternative to traditional weight-lifting exercises and can help you feel more relaxed. Instead of trying to stick to a regular workout routine, focus on simply staying active as often as your body will comfortably allow.

Be Safe

No matter how far into pregnancy you are, there are activities you should avoid entirely. Outdoor bicycling, horseback riding, contact sports, gymnastics, water skiing and downhill skiing are all dangerous, since they put your belly at risk of trauma. Regardless of your exercise routine, be sure to start every workout with a warm-up and gentle stretching and finish with a cool-down and more stretching; stay well-hydrated throughout your workout; and avoid pushing your body to a point where you feel discomfort or pain. Finally, be aware of the signs that you're working too hard: vaginal bleeding, chest pain, abdominal pain, headache, dizziness and shortness of breath require a call to your doctor if the symptoms continue after you stop exercising.

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