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There are many reasons to exercise throughout life, but while you are pregnant it is particularly important to keep moving. Even if you didn't exercise before pregnancy, as long as your doctor approves, you should start a prenatal fitness program in order to increase your odds of a healthy pregnancy and birth experience. The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetrics recommends about thirty minutes of moderate exercise most days during pregnancy. Here are the five main reasons expectant moms should exercise regularly:
1. Fewer aches and pains during pregnancy. The appropriate exercises can eliminate most of the "normal" discomforts associated with pregnancy which result from postural changes and muscle tightness. A good prenatal yoga routine can help eliminate tension and prevent or eliminate achy back and legs.
2. Reduced chances of a Cesarean section. Though about a third of women give birth by C-section, a recent study in Spain confirmed that exercising at least 3 times a week throughout pregnancy reduces your risk for a C-section birth.
3. Fewer pounds added during pregnancy. Gaining between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy is normal. To avoid putting on extra pounds, exercise regularly. That means less baby weight to take off after baby comes.
4. Rapid recovery after childbirth. Women who exercise regularly while pregnant will have increased muscle tone and less weight to lose after giving birth. Prenatal workouts that target the muscles weakened during pregnancy, especially the core muscle group including the abdominals, lumbar and hip muscles and the oh-so-important pelvic floor. Going into childbirth with more strength and muscle tone makes for faster muscle recovery afterward.
5. Improved overall fitness for years after giving birth. The benefits of exercise extend beyond just the first few years after giving birth. Fitness is a lifestyle change that can last even beyond the day you drop your kids off at college. A longitudinal study showed that women who exercised more during pregnancy maintained a healthy weight, stayed fit and had lower cardiovascular risk when they reached menopause compared to women who did not exercise while pregnant.