The Importance of Physical Activity during Pregnancy

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Does being pregnant mean saying goodbye to softball, tennis or any other sport you enjoy? Not necessarily. 

Being physically active during pregnancy offers women many health benefits, among them a psychological lift, optimal weight gain and better aerobic fitness. For most pregnancies, mild to moderate physical activity benefits mom and won't affect your unborn child. Consider these benefits to staying active during pregnancy. You can: 

  • Look and feel good as your body changes. 
  • Promote muscle tone, stamina and strength. 
  • Reduce leg and back pain, constipation, swelling and bloating. 
  • Promote blood circulation and possibly help prevent varicose veins. 
  • Help your posture and balance, which is very important as your center of gravity shifts. 
  • Sleep better. 
  • Prepare your body for labor and childbirth. 
  • Get your body back in shape after delivery. 

From 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Pregnant and Postpartum Women

Healthy women who are not already doing vigorous-intensity physical activity should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. Preferably, this activity should be spread throughout the week. Women who regularly engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or high amounts of activity can continue their activity provided that their condition remains unchanged and they talk to their health care provider about their activity level throughout their pregnancy. 

All the nutritional issues that relate to a healthy pregnancy apply to female athletes. Eat a varied and balanced diet with enough calories to support your baby and your own needs while meeting the physical demands of your activity. 

Fluid replacement has even more health implications during pregnancy as your own and your baby's blood volume increases. If you don't drink enough fluids, you're at greater risk for dehydration and overheating; early in pregnancy, that can affect the development of your unborn baby. Stay hydrated throughout the day with water plus fat-free or low-fat milk and moderate servings of 100 percent juice.  

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