Is high school the last time you saw the inside of a gym? Have you always sat on the sidelines cheering while others played sports? If you have never exercised, fear not: You can start during pregnancy. Intense sports are out, but if you have your doctor's approval, you can begin a fitness walking program.
You may not think of walking as exercise, but it is in fact a very effective fitness activity, particularly during pregnancy. The list of all the great things walking does goes on and on. It burns calories, tones your muscles, increases circulation, and prevents constipation. What's more, it reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, depression, and anxiety. It helps control weight; it builds and maintains healthy bones, muscles, and joints; and it promotes psychological well-being. And if that's not enough, it also enhances the quality of your sleep, reduces stress, and improves self-esteem.
How to Start
The first step in a walking program is to walk as fast as you can for 45 minutes straight, right? Wrong! The first step is to focus on one thing and one thing only: making walking a daily habit. That means starting with 10-minute walks five to seven days the first week, even if you are fit enough to walk much longer. After you've worked 10-minute walks into your daily schedule, try adding 5 minutes to two or three walks a week, gradually working your way up to 30-minute walks five to seven days a week. If you increase your time and feel like it's too much, go back to the previous week's schedule.
It's important not to do too much too soon. If you overexert yourself, your muscles will feel sore, and you may feel discouraged. Add minutes to your workouts gradually.
Excerpted from You & Your Baby: Pregnancy. (c) Copyright Meredith Corporation 2006. All rights reserved. You & Your Baby is a trademark of Meredith Corporation.