Making exercise a regular habit before trying to conceive can help you feel good throughout your pregnancy, have more stamina for labor and delivery, and shed the baby weight faster. Exercise may even improve your fertility if you're struggling to conceive due to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or are overweight. Learn how to start or maintain a conception-friendly exercise routine and find out which exercises are best to get you in shape before you conceive.
You may be tempted to wait until you're pregnant to start a fitness program, but it's important to be in top physical shape during the critical days of early fetal development. Remember: A mother's health has a direct correlation with her baby's health so the earlier you start, the better. Plus, if you make physical activity a habit now, it'll be easier to stick with when you're pregnant and carrying around the extra weight of a bump.
Choose a variety of activities that you enjoy, recommends Amy Ogle, co-author of Before Your Pregnancy. This way, if you can't go for a walk because it's pouring rain, for example, you can still go to a Zumba class. "If you're already accustomed to doing several activities, then you'll be more likely to keep on doing one or all of the baby-friendly ones once you're pregnant," Ogle says. She also recommends swimming because it's zero-impact and it offers a enjoyable weightless feeling that's especially great during your heaviest months.
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When you're pregnant your belly grows, your breasts get bigger, and your center of gravity shifts, which can cause a strain on other parts of your body. "If you strengthen your abdominal and back muscles now, you'll be less likely to have back pain later," Ogle says.
Core training has other benefits, too, explains Connie Marshall, certified pre- and postnatal exercise specialist and owner of San Diego-based Lifefitness4me.com. "Having a strong core gives you better balance and posture, both of which are crucial when you're pregnant."
If you love running 10Ks, can't live without your boot camp class, or push yourself to your limits spinning, it's time to modify your routine. Although high-intensity intervals are okay to continue during the pre-conception stage if you've been doing them all along, according to Ogle, all-out efforts should be put on hold until after your baby is born. "Exercise is a form of stress on the body," Marshall says, "and anything in excess can do more harm than good, especially during this time."
Instead, Marshall recommends more moderate routines, such as walking, hiking, swimming, and working out on the elliptical, as long as you can still talk and not run out of breath.
It might be tempting to get to your ideal weight before you put on the extra pregnancy pounds, but now isn't the time for a fad diet or gimmicky exercise routine. You need to make sure you're nourishing, not depriving, your body, says Marshall. Aim for a well-rounded diet, not one that eliminates certain food groups or cuts calories dramatically.
Log 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise each day prepregnancy by power walking, swimming, jogging, or working out on the elliptical machine. Getting your heart rate up regularly will help keep you in all-around better shape while you're trying to get pregnant, and help you stay in good physical and mental health throughout your pregnancy and during delivery.
"You need endurance through delivery," says Jason Keigher, certified pre- and postnatal personal trainer and owner of Amazingly Fit in New York City. "Think of pregnancy like you're preparing for a big race, and giving birth is the marathon. You're also going to need a lot of energy; life takes a dramatic change after the baby comes, and cardio helps that."
The prospective father's health is equally important during the 90 days before conception. Because this is the amount of time it takes for sperm to completely develop, it is the prime time for him to do everything in his power to be in good health. Enjoy being active and supportive of healthy habits together.
In general, it's a good idea to keep up pre-conception exercise routines (or a modified version) for better all-around health and well-being for you and your baby. But because everyone is different, your doctor will want to weigh in on your training habits to help you have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
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