Expectant mothers should not shun exercise

July 8th, 2008 - 9:14 am ICT by IANS  

Hanover, July 8 (DPA) Just a few years ago expectant mothers were told to take it easy. But now we know that exercise during pregnancy improves overall condition, strengthens the cardiovascular system, and stimulates blood circulation. “If their gynaecologist gives the green light, pregnant women should go ahead and participate in sports,” said Christian Albring, president of the Munich-based Association of Gynaecologists (BVF).

The right amount of exercise depends on how the pregnancy is going and how active the woman was before. Endurance sports, which are physically beneficial in a host of ways, are also good training for the strains of pregnancy.

“Jogging, hiking, Nordic walking, cycling, dancing and swimming in water with a temperature over 20 degrees centigrade are also well suited to people who don’t care for sports,” Albring said.

Swimming, aquajogging, aquarobics and similar water activities have benefits that go beyond physical conditioning.

“Water is felt to be particularly pleasant because it buoys the body and takes weight off the joints,” noted Marion Sulprizio, a sports psychologist at the German Sport University Cologne’s Department of Health Research.

Also, studies show that strenuous activities are possible in water without raising the heart rate. “So in water you can really let loose,” she said.

Another option is the fitness studio. “On the treadmill, cross trainer and ergometer, the training intensity is regulated individually and the amount of strain is monitored,” Sulprizio said.

Strength training is also permissible - not for the abdomen, but for arms and legs. The weights and resistances should be greatly reduced, however.

Sports involving sudden jumps or hops are not especially advisable. The same goes for those such as squash, which require quick bursts of exertion.

“Deep-sea diving is the only thing that’s really taboo,” said Edith Wolber of the Karlsruhe-based German Midwives Association. She pointed out that women who dive during pregnancy have a significantly higher rate of children with deformities.

Whatever kind of exercise is chosen, it is important to avoid heavy strain, to downshift the intensity, take regular breaks, drink a lot of fluids, and listen to one’s body.

“Expectant mothers are not competing. That means, among other things, that they can allow themselves to engage in sports less than they did previously or reduce their performance level,” Wolber said.

It is quite all right for expectant mothers who were very active before their pregnancy to exercise for half an hour three times a week. The regularity of workouts is more important than their duration, however.

Exercise becomes more restricted as the pregnancy advances.

“During the last trimester, a supine position should be avoided because it disrupts blood circulation in the uterus,” Wolber warned. And that big belly can get in the way, too, for instance while cycling or dancing.

In every phase of pregnancy, how the woman feels is the main factor in determining the amount of exercise.

“A workout should stop immediately in cases of blurred vision, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, nausea or pain,” Albring said. These symptoms should be promptly discussed with the treating physician or midwife, he added.

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