www.na The Pilates Body: Exercise For Moms-to-Be: Gentle Ways to Stay Fit

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Exercise For Moms-to-Be: Gentle Ways to Stay Fit

For many women, exercise regimens are an integral part of their daily activities. However, concerns arise among the medical community regarding the effects of exercise on pregnant women. While it is important for women to refrain from vigorous exercise and contact sports during their pregnancies, some studies show a greater sense of wellbeing in well-conditioned women as compared with other pregnant women.

Maintaining an exercise routine can be extremely difficult when a woman is pregnant, and she may find herself avoiding it altogether in fear it may harm the baby. Pilates is a wonderful mind-body exercise for moms-to-be, especially because it can improve the way a woman feels throughout the pregnancy. It strengthens the most important muscles used during pregnancy and labor, and the dynamic moves and coordinated breathing help build muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance--something that is very important as pregnancy progresses. "During pregnancy, the body's hormones change, causing ligaments and tissue to loosen. If you strengthen the pelvic floor, the [woman] can go back naturally to a pre-pregnant or correct alignment," states Julian Littleford of J L Body Conditioning in Del Mar, California. "[Because] the system strengthens and lengthens the intrinsic muscles that hold the body in correct alignment," adds Littleford, the program helps ease the strain and tensions involved with a changing body.

As previously mentioned, Pilates focuses on core strength, targeting the abdominals, pelvic floor muscles, and lower back extensors. This often helps relieve much of the stress on the lower back and pelvis, where many women complain of pain throughout pregnancy. Although the strength of the core muscles can offer great benefits, it is possible for the mother to overstress these muscles. She must pay attention to her body; if she feels any discomfort, she should discontinue the exercise. As with any fitness regimen, it is crucial that the mother discuss her plan with the physician supervising the pregnancy. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology thoroughly outlines the conditions indicating a woman should not participate in exercise during pregnancy. The mother must contact the healthcare provider immediately of she experiences any of the following during or after exercise: bleeding, labored respiration, dizziness, severe abdominal pain, exhaustion, chest pain, decreased fetal movement, and/or amniotic fluid leakage.

Not much can be done to alter the inevitable physiological and hormonal changes of pregnancy. However, by strengthening the core stabilizing muscles around the pelvis and spine--and improving the breathing pattern--it is hoped that one can optimize the body for the challenges it may face. Many women say Pilates alleviated back pain during pregnancy, prepared them for delivery, and simply helped them feel better about their changing bodies. Women who choose Pilates for exercise during pregnancy will learn to improve awareness of their bodies, performing careful movements that will extend beyond the walls of the studio or fitness center. While there are many options available to stay fit throughout the nine months, healthcare professionals and women alike agree Pilates tops the list for great prenatal fitness workouts.

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