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Study 'Weighs' Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy


From Jazzercise, Inc.

(CARLSBAD, CA) Traditional wisdom dictates that pregnancy is not the time to begin an exercise program. For years experts have encouraged women who were active prior to conception to pursue fitness activities throughout their pregnancies, but offered mixed advice to women who had been inactive. New research about birth weight is turning traditional wisdom on its ear.

According to a Canadian study reported in the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology," women who remained sedentary through their pregnancies had an increased risk of delivering a baby with low birth weight. On the contrary, women who were inactive prior to conception but who began a moderate exercise program while pregnant did not share that increased risk.

Furthermore, the post-natal questionnaire completed by 500 women indicated that the amount of exercise was instrumental in predicting healthy birth weights. Exercising too much or too little both led to a higher incidence of low birth weight among the babies delivered.

Women who performed strenuous aerobic exercise more than four times per week, especially during the last trimester, were four times more likely to deliver a baby with low birth weight. Likewise, women who exercised fewer than three times per week were twice as likely to have low weight babies. Researchers conducting the study determined that exercising three to four times per week was optimal for delivering babies of healthy weight, whether or not a woman had a history of exercising prior to pregnancy.

In addition to influencing healthy birth weights, which medical professionals believe decreases the likelihood of infants experiencing subsequent health problems, moderate exercise appears to help both the mother and baby in several ways.

Many women find that exercise combats the fatigue, backaches and moodiness common to pregnancy and speeds their recovery after delivery. The "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology" also reported that women who exercised during pregnancy found their babies to be less demanding and more aware of their surroundings.

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Jazzercise founder and CEO, Judi Sheppard Missett, says that barring major complications, there's little to hold pregnant women back from exercise. Of course if you are pregnant and have been inactive until now, you should be sure to discuss exercise with your doctor before you begin a program. The following tips can also help you exercise safely and effectively:

  • Watch your joints. Your ligaments and joints soften in preparation for delivery, so it's important to be aware of activities that place extra stress on your weight-bearing joints, primarily the knees, ankles and hips, and to modify your participation accordingly.
  • Monitor your heart rate. During pregnancy your resting heart rate climbs as many as 15 beats per minute, so it follows that your exercise heart rate is likely to rise as well. Experts recommend keeping your exercise heart rate at 145 beats per minute or lower.
  • Get plenty of water! Dehydration can cause premature labor, so drink up before, during and after exercise.
  • The following straddle stretch, which targets the muscles of the hip, thigh and waist, is good for everyone, but feels particularly good for pregnant exercisers. Sit on the floor with your legs open to the sides in a "V" shape. Stretch your spine tall, and slowly reach your left arm toward your left foot. You should feel a gentle stretch along your left leg and the right side of your body.
    Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds as you breathe naturally. Return to your starting position and repeat the stretch to your right side. Continue alternating left and right for a total of three to four repetitions on each side.

    © Jazzercise, Inc.
    Jazzercise is the world's largest fitness program with 5,000+ instructors teaching more than 19,000 classes weekly to 450,000 students in 38 countries around the globe. For more information or worldwide class locations, go to jazzercise.com or call 1(800)FIT-IS-IT - Courtesy of Jazzercise, Inc. - jazzercise.com.

     

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