Should I exercise when I'm pregnant?

One of the biggest concerns of most newly pregnant mothers is weight gain. Weight gain is a perfectly natural and even healthy part of a seamless pregnancy, however, the effects it can have on both the physical comfort and the emotional security of the mother can take their toll.

Many women look to counter this strike proactively by implementing a prenatal exercise routine. The good news is that you can, with the help of your doctor, implement a safe exercise routine to help minimize your weight gain and keep yourself in good shape for giving birth. But first, it's important that you understand the effects weight gain can have and how exercise might help.

Side effects of weight gain during pregnancy
Carrying a little extra weight can make it harder to get around, and many new mothers have lamented missing the sight of their own two feet. While this is a temporary condition, pounds put on during pregnancy often result in soreness, particularly in the back and feet. In some cases, regular exercise may help soothe this by getting your blood moving and helping you work out the kinks. Too much exercise, however, can further complicate matters.

Another, perhaps even more unfortunate, side effect of weight gain is the emotional toll it takes on many women. Many report feeling unattractive or undesirable to their mates. Many men, however, indicate that they do not feel unattracted to their pregnant partners - and some even say they find knowing a woman is carrying their child to be incredibly sexy.

Even if you aren't feeling self-conscious due to the weight gain, exercise can still be incredibly beneficial. Exercise releases the chemical serotonin, a documented mood elevator. Therefore, even a light workout can help you fight whatever baby blues you may be feeling related to weight gain.

What type of exercise is right for me?
If you maintained a regular fitness regimen before becoming pregnant, it will be easier to assimilate to a new routine, you may find that you need to make some slight adjustments. For instance, some forms of weight lifting may be off-limits. If you're a lifter, choose smaller hand weights rather than dumbbells and reduce the weight if you begin to feel discomfort.

Most medical experts say that cardio, such as running or brisk walking, is a great and relatively low-impact activity for pregnant women. If you experience trouble breathing or start to feel too much stress on your joints, you'll need to take your routine down a notch.

Yoga is another good, low-impact activity that can help you keep toned and strong during pregnancy. Many yoga studios have special prenatal classes just for expecting moms. If you decide to join a regular class, let your instructor know that you're pregnant and he or she will advise you when not to attempt a position.

Even if you didn't exercise regularly prior to becoming pregnant, you can still build a healthy fitness routine. Start small and build up slowly. Ask your doctor for guidance and listen to your body - if it's telling you it's in pain, stop and take a break.

The decision to exercise while pregnant can have many beneficial repercussions. It will help you feel better about yourself and keep your stress levels lower. It can also help boost your "pregnancy glow" by getting your blood circulating. Furthermore, it helps prime your body for the labor and delivery process, and keeps your muscles toned so that snapping back into shape after the birth is much easier.

Do you have any tips for exercising during pregnancy? Let us know in the comments section!