So you're pregnant (congratulations!) and want to get started with an appropriate exercise programme to stay fit in the coming months? Here's a list of do's and don'ts that will help you keep healthy without worrying about harming yourself and your baby while having a fun workout session.DoS:
Consult your gynaecologist before you start any exercise programme. Sometimes the easiest of exercises may not be advisable in certain cases. Also ask the doctor's advice as to how often you should exercise.
Pick a gentle cardiovascular activity like walking or swimming.
Perform some prenatal strength, stretching and breathing exercises. This will make the body strong and flexible, easing out all the pregnancy aches and pains while preparing you for labour and delivery. You could attend a class for these exercises, buy a video or book or find them online.
Pick a safe exercise environment. Walk in a park or on a jogging track; swim in a clean pool.
Eat something an hour before your work out so that you can perform with some energy.
Warm up and cool down before and after your exercise. Warming up is a must in order to prevent any muscular injuries to the body. A cooldown is necessary to lower the heart rate gradually. Stopping suddenly can cause you to feel dizzy or faint.
Add a fun element -- take along some music or another pregnant friend. You can also join a prenatal class -- they include not only exercises, but talks on pregnancy and a chance to bond with other mommies.
Be very particular about your posture and technique of performing an exercise, especially if you aren't under professional supervision. Incorrect form and technique can cause injuries and render the exercise ineffective.
Stop if you feel any pain or discomfort and contact your doctor -- do not resume exercising until he/ she tells you to do so.
Don't choose high-impact cardiovascular exercises like a kickboxing class or any other exercise form that is very strenuous.
Doing some light resistance exercises is alright, but don't train with heavy weights.
Strictly avoid any mid-section workouts except abdominal and back exercises that are specifically for pregnancy.
No going all out with your workouts -- remember, you're pregnant. Begin at a slow and comfortable pace and start with a short duration workout, say 20 minutes. It is important to ease your body into exercise. Remember that it is very busy performing a very important function and it's not a good idea to over-strain it.
Round off your workouts with some prenatal breathing exercises and massaging your baby from the top of your tummy. Job well done! The most important thing to do is rest. Give your body enough 'feet up' time to relax.
Photograph: Susana Vera/Reuters
Brinda Sapat is head of the Group Exercise Department at Gold's Gym, Napean Sea Road, Mumbai. Certified with Training Zone & Progressive Fitness (USA), she has been a fitness instructor for over a decade.