Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise in a Health Club Setting

DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is not meant to replace the advice and recommendations of your doctor and/or midwife. Please consult your caregiver before beginning any exercise program.

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Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise in a Health Club Setting

Source: Peggy Lymen, Mt. Shasta Racquet Sports Fitness Center, Mt. Shasta, CA

The purpose of an exercise program during pregnancy is to maintain physical fitness and to prepare for labor and delivery, not to imporve athletic performance nor to participate in competitive activities. Benefits recognized with prenatal exercise include cardiovascular fitness, muscle strengthening, increased flexibility, and better balance. Here are some suggestions to make the most of your workouts.

1. You should obtain your doctor's or caregiver's consent to participate in active exercise. Ask specifically about the equipment (such as stair steppers) or classes (such as step or circuit) you want to do.

2. Work at your own pace. Do not try to compete with the instructor or other class members. Do not exceed the instructor's intensity. However, feel free to tone down on the days your energy is low.

3. Dress comfortably in non-restrictive clothing (not too warm) with a supportive bra and good athletic shoes.

4. It is important to replace fluids. Pregnant women have a tendency to dehydrate more rapidly. Drink fluids before, during, and after your workout.

5. If taking a class, make sure you can see the instructor and follow instructor regarding alignment and positions. Example: keep your pelvis tucked, knees soft.

6. Heart rate recommendations during pregnancy are 140 beats per minute. If you are unsure show to count your heart rate, ask an instructor. Another method of making sure you are not working too hard is the "talk test" or "perceived exertion". Ask your instructor to explain this test to you.

7. Position changes should be done slowly in order to avoid round ligament pulls and to prevent sudden drops in blood pressure.

8. Protect your back at all times. Keep your knees bent to work as "shock absorbers". Keep your back in good alignment.

9. If any exercise causes pain - STOP. Discontinue exercise and be aware of continuing pain in your chest, back, abdomen, pelvis, or joints. Let your care giver know if you are experiencing menstrual like cramps, shortness of breath, bleeding, or faintness.

10. You should not exercise if you are bleeding or spotting, if you suspect your bag of waters is leaking, or if you develop regular contractions.

11. During exercise, breathe properly, exhaling on an effort and inhaling in a relaxed state. Avoid holding your breath or the Valsalva maneuver.

12. Do not exercise flat on your back for greater than two to three minutes after your fourth month of pregnancy. In your last three months of pregnancy, do no back lying exercises. Lying flat on your back compresses the vena cava (the vein that caries blood back to the heart) and can interfere with normal blood flow to the placenta. If at any time lying on your back causes you to feel uncomfortable, dizzy, nauseous, or short of breath, roll on to your left side.

13. Never exercise if you have a fever. Avoid overheating. Do not use saunas, whirlpools or spas while pregnant.

14. Exercise during pregnancy should be regular, not intermittent. Alternate your routine with aerobics classes, swimming, walking, and cardiovascular equipment.

15. Try to take time to relax and stretch after your workout. This practice will allow you to be able to recognize and release tension - very necessary skills for coping with labor and delivery.

16. Remember that each day you are pregnant is different from any other day. Do not push yourself beyond your limits. Exercise should be fun and enjoyable.

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