Exercise key for moms, moms-to-be

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Soon-to-be or future moms will soon experience life differently through the unselfish deeds of catering to newly born babies.

Unfortunately, with that said it can be difficult to find energy and time to work out to stay healthy and fit.

Prior to pregnancy women should incorporate fitness as a daily routine for general and reproductive health. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends pregnant women should have a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Pregnant women should be cleared for exercise through the family physician.

During pregnancy a woman will experience numerous physiological changes such as increased body temperature, heart rate, cardiac output and oxygen consumption. Due to the release of the hormone relaxin, women are generally more flexible from joint laxity.

Therefore, high intensity exercise is not recommended for pregnancy. Common preferred forms of exercise include water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, low-impact aerobics, biking, walking, jogging and light weightlifting.

Pregnant women should avoid exercising in extreme heat or humidity. Since the body temperature is higher during pregnancy, and exercise increases body temperature, a pregnant woman's temperature should never exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Body temperature at that degree is detrimental to the fetus. Women should take caution to exercising in the supine (lying upwards) position during the first trimester. During the second and third trimester the position should be avoided as well because it can overstretch the muscles.

Women who are runners may want to decrease mileage for each trimester jogging between 1 to 1.5 miles during the third trimester. Exercise should be omitted when bleeding or if one has had a history of premature births or miscarriages.

Exercising after birth is also important to increase energy and reduce weight. Mothers no longer have to leave children at home with the invention of bike trailers, front packs and fancy strollers.

The University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, conducted a study testing 15 females pushing a stroller with a weight load of 35 pounds, equivalent to a 1-year-old. Results showed pushing a stroller burned more calories than walking solo. Calories expended also increased as the incline increased. The results showed that 18 to 20 percent more calories were burned when walking at a 3.0 to 3.5 mph pace rather than a more relaxed speed. It was estimated that 372 to 444 calories per hour total were expended, which is equivalent to biking at 10 mph. Also, heart rates were increased approximately 21 beats per minute. Pregnant women, incidentally, should never exceed a heart of 140 beats per minute.

During exercise, intensity should be reduced if experiencing breathlessness, dizziness and rapid heart beat. Always hydrate throughout a workout session and eat a small snack prior to exercising to avoid hypoglycemia.

Exercising before, during and after pregnancy not only aids in birthing the baby but also decreases backaches and the chances of gestational diabetes. Along with exercising, mothers-to-be generally should choose healthier food to provide vital nutrients to the fetus.

Important nutrients are vitamin C, calcium, folic acid, vitamin A and iron. Never at any time during a pregnancy should excessive exercise or calorie cutting occur. Mild weight gain is normal and healthy. Remember, you are eating for two!

Elizabeth Kovar has been working in the fitness industry since 2006 with international experience in India and Australia. She has a master's degree in recreation and tourism and is a programs coordinator at the YMCA where she trains, instructs fitness classes and assists in marketing projects. She welcomes questions and comments and can be reached at ekovar@wwymca.org.

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