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Pregnant? Exercise is Good For You!

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For years, the prevailing thought has been – if you didn’t exercise before, during pregnancy wasn’t the time to start. That’s no longer the case says, Alejandro Lucia, a professor of exercise physiology at the European University of Madrid.

A group of researchers want women to know that when it comes to exercise, there is a strong consensus of benefit for both the mother and developing fetus.

"Within reason, with adequate cautions, it's important for [everyone] to get over this fear," said Lucia.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which updated its recommendations in 2015, women without major medical or obstetric complications should get at least 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise — enough to get you moving, while still being able to carry on a conversation — on most days of the week.

Lucia noted that evidence now suggests that starting an exercise program while pregnant can provide health benefits to both the mother and the growing fetus. Obviously, though, if you're new to exercise, take it slowly — you can work up to that 20 or 30 minutes.

The authors of the study say physical activity can prevent excessive weight gain, which can complicate the pregnancy and contribute to obesity. A review of existing research published in 2015 by the Cochrane Library found "high-quality evidence" that exercise during pregnancy can help prevent gaining too much weight, and may possibly lower the likelihood of a cesarean section, breathing problems in newborns, maternal hypertension and a baby that is significantly bigger than average. And of course, exercise promotes general cardiovascular and muscular health.

Other health problems can be helped such as chronic high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and women who are overweight or obese. Researchers say women with these conditions should be encouraged to exercise.

However, there are some health conditions in pregnancy where exercise should be avoided. According to the ACOG guidelines, women should avoid aerobic exercise if they have significant heart disease, persistent bleeding in the second or third trimester, severe anemia and risk of premature labor, among other conditions. And certain symptoms, such as contractions or dizziness during exercise, should be checked out quickly.

The bottom line is that women need to make a plan with their physician, taking into account their exercise history, their health, and the risk of pregnancy complications, says James Pivarnik, a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at Michigan State University. He wasn't an author of the viewpoint but has conducted research on exercise and pregnancy.

Moderation is the goal during any exercise program. Long distance running and heavy weight lifting are not recommended. ACOG also recommends against contact sports, hot yoga, and exercises done in the supine position, i.e. lying face up, starting in the second trimester.

There are always exceptions to the rule, particularly with women who are highly trained athletes before they become pregnant. These women should still form plan with their OB/GYN on how much and what kinds of exercises are safe for them.

Among the general population and pregnant women specifically, people will respond differently to an exercise program. "But we know if you do the kind of things they're talking about here, the odds are your risk will be lower," says. Pivarnik.

Story source: Katherine Hobson, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/21/520951610/exercising-while-pregnant-is-almost-always-a-good-idea

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