Fit & Fabulous

Why you should exercise during pregnancy?

Pregnancy may seem like a perfect time to sit back and put your feet up. You may feel more tired than usual, your back may ache, and your ankles may be swollen. But guess what? There's more to pregnancy and exercise than skipping it entirely. Unless you're experiencing serious complications, sitting around won't help. In fact, pregnancy can be a great time to get active - even if you haven't exercised in a while.

Exercise can help ease or even prevent discomfort, boost your energy level and improve your overall health. Exercise also helps you prepare for labor by increasing your stamina and muscle strength. Being in good shape may even shorten your labour and speed your recovery.

Walking, swimming and cycling are all excellent forms of exercise during pregnancy. Strengthening exercises are appropriate using light weights. You also may want to consider a prenatal exercise class. Instructors can illustrate safe and effective floor exercises.

Why it's a good idea?

* Improve strength and stamina

* Strengthen muscles in preparation for labor and delivery

* Help to resolve constipation

* Improve fitness

* Relieve back pain

* Increase flexibility

* Improve your mood

* Improve your sleep

Who should you check with?

Before you begin an exercise program, make sure you have your doctor's OK. Although exercise during pregnancy is generally good for both mother and baby, you'll need to proceed with caution if you have a history of pre-term labour or certain medical conditions.

How to start off?

For most pregnant women, at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended on most, if not all, days of the week. But even shorter or less frequent workouts can help you stay in shape and prepare for labour.

Walking is a great exercise for beginners. It provides moderate aerobic conditioning with minimal stress on your joints. Other good choices include swimming, rowing and cycling on a stationary bike. Strength training is OK, too, as long as you avoid lifting heavy weights.

If you exercised before pregnancy, you can probably continue to work out at the same level while you're pregnant - as long as you're feeling comfortable and your health care provider says it's OK. If you haven't exercised for a while, begin with as little as five minutes of physical activity a day. Build up to 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and so on, until you reach at least 30 minutes a day.

Remember to stretch before and after each workout. Drink plenty of fluids (and Lillipops!) to stay hydrated, and be careful to avoid overheating. No matter how dedicated you are to being in shape, don't exercise to the point of exhaustion.

How to stay motivated?

You're more likely to stick with an exercise plan if it involves activities you enjoy and fits into your daily schedule.

Consider these simple tips:

* Start small. You don't need to join a gym or don expensive workout clothes to get in shape. Just get moving. Try a daily walk through your neighbourhood. 

* Find a partner. Exercise can be more interesting if you use the time to chat with a friend. Better yet, involve the whole family.

* Listen to music or a book while you exercise. Use lively songs to energise your workout.

* Try a class. Many fitness centers and hospitals offer classes designed for pregnant women. Choose one that fits your interests and schedule.

* Get creative. Don't limit yourself. Consider hiking, rowing or dancing.

* Give yourself permission to rest. Your tolerance for strenuous exercise will decrease as your pregnancy progresses.

What you should be aware of?

As important as it is to exercise, it's also important to watch for danger signs. Stop exercising if you notice:

* Blurred vision

* Dizziness

* Nausea

* Fatigue

* Shortness of breath

* Chest pain

* Abdominal pain

* Vaginal bleeding

If you don't feel better quickly after you stop exercising, contact your health care provider.

Remember, just 'cos you're pregnant doesn't mean you can't be...fit & fabulous!

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