Your Guide to Pregnancy Fitness

The more you move, the healthier your pregnancy and the easier your delivery.

The Basics

pregnant woman walking

Pregnancy used to be an excuse to put your feet up and feast on Fudgsicles. But now, not so much. In fact, getting off the couch -- and often -- can help you have a smoother pregnancy. Experts recommend that you exercise for 30 minutes a day, most days, which means pregnancy is no reason to push "get in better shape" to the bottom of your to-do list. "Every morning during my second pregnancy, just when I was starting to feel like I wanted to flop onto the couch, I'd strap my toddler into the stroller and walk for an hour," says Stephanie Kilroy, of Reno, Nevada. "I felt energized and relaxed and could sleep better."

6 Reasons to Get Fit

Your energy will increase. "The endorphins I got from hiking and lifting weights gave me the extra boost I needed every day," says Nan Rothchild, a mom of two, of Park City, Utah. Indeed, research confirms that prenatal exercise increases both energy and stamina.

And so will your confidence. Hey there, sexy pregnant lady! Who needs a better reason than looking good to get moving? "As I put on more weight and my curves got curvier, I kept walking," says Suzanne Knittel, of Hermosa Beach, California. "Staying as fit as I could made me feel better about the way my body was changing."

Plus, you'll feel better overall. Exercise helps things move, if you get what we mean, which means you're less likely to be constipated. It also enables your body to release endorphins. (These feel-good chemicals helped Rothchild battle her mood swings during pregnancy.) And lower-body strength-training moves such as squats and lunges can help relieve backaches.

Did we mention it's good for your baby? Exercising decreases the likelihood you'll develop gestational diabetes, which creates a host of risks for baby, including preterm birth. And recent research by The American Physiological Society found that exercise is also beneficial for the developing fetus's heart.

Labor will be easier -- thank goodness! You wouldn't run or even walk a 10K without training. So why head into a marathon (as childbirth educators often call labor) without preparing for it? When you exercise, you learn to control your breathing and listen to your body's signals about thirst and fatigue -- skills you'll definitely put to good use while in labor. Studies show that women who exercise regularly have fewer c-sections and are less likely to need forceps during a vaginal delivery. And, best of all, exercisers often experience less pain throughout their deliveries!

You'll get your pre-baby body back faster. "I got into my skinny jeans way sooner," mom, Stephanie Kilroy says. She gained 40 pounds during her first pregnancy (when she wasn't exercising all that much) but put on a more reasonable 30 pounds while pregnant the second time around.

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