Being in top physical form can help your body cope with many of the discomforts of pregnancy, such as swelling, back aches and cramping.
Leslie Beck, nutritionist and author of Leslie Beck's Nutrition Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy (Penguin Canada, 2004), sat down with Dr. Marla Shapiro with some advice for properly preparing your body for pregnancy.
"We know that if a woman is in physical shape, that can help her cope with many of the pregnancy-related complications that may or may not come along," Beck said. "It can help prevent hemorrhoids and constipation by keeping women regular; it can help them sleep better at times when they're going to have difficulty sleeping; it can prevent leg cramps and back aches if your posture is in good shape. She'll just be able to cope better with the physical stresses of pregnancy and perhaps delivery will be easier for her and she'll recover faster."
Beck recommends a half-hour of cardiovascular exercise at least four times per week just to get the heart rate up consistently and keep your heart and lungs in shape.
She also suggests flexibility and strength exercises 2-4 times per week.
If a woman has been a couch potato, Beck advises not starting anything until the second trimester.
Here are some of Beck's suggestions:
Kegel exercises help prevent hemorrhoids and urinary incontinence after delivery. A Kegel is when you contract the floor of your pelvis. An example of a Kegel is, if you are in the middle of a urinary stream and you use your muscles to stop the flow, those are the muscles you're trying to work.
Hold the contraction for 10 seconds and do 20-30 of them each day to keep the muscles in shape because the enlarged uterus and growing baby tends to weaken them.
Lower, upper and middle abdominal exercises as well as those to strengthen the lateral obliques help posture. However, after the first trimester, women shouldn't be doing anything lying flat on their backs, Beck said. This is when you talk to someone about modifying your routine.
Upper and Lower Back
Women want to build up their chest muscles because their breasts will enlarge. Push-ups are a simple way to go about this, do them against the floor or even a wall. Push-ups work the chest, triceps and back muscles.
"Don't forget calf stretches and ankle circles because that's going to help prevent fluid retention that can occur later on in pregnancy."
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