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. Many women have an uncomfortable pregnancy. The move laboriously from chair to chair, feeling tired, constipated, and depressed. They look at the rippling fat on their legs and sigh, not realizing that with a good exercise program, it would not have to be that way.
There are two basic types of exercise—sustained and conditioning. Running, walking, and bicycling are popular kinds of 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.
Conditioning exercises, such as calisthenics and isometrics, improve muscle tone by using a muscle over and over again. Using muscles during exercise also prevents fat deposits from building up in those areas and keep the muscles stretched. Doing a combination of both types of exercise—sustained and conditioning—provides the best overall benefit. You burn calories, tone your muscles, develop your cardiovascular system, and saturate your body with oxygen.
In this chapter, specific exercises to prepare the body for labor and delivery are presented. Proper body mechanics are also discussed, as are measures to relieve some of the minor discomforts of pregnancy.
Eventually, if you did not exercise on a regular basis prior to becoming pregnant, now is a good time to start. Exercising can increase your energy, relieve constipation and backache, stimulate the baby, and condition your muscles for birth. It will also help you feel better mentally, knowing that you are doing something positive for yourself and your baby.
Choose the type of exercise that suits you best and that you can fit into your lifestyle. some women prefer several short sessions throughout the day, while others find it easier to stay motivated if they join a pregnancy exercise class. Toward the end of your pregnancy, you will need to taper off. Walking is the best exercise to do during the last month before giving birth.