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Health & Pregnancy

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Exercise During Pregnancy: Myth vs. Fact

Experts say what's safe and what's not safe when it comes to staying fit during pregnancy.

Myth or Fact: It's not safe to do abdominal work during pregnancy.

Myth. Not only is it OK, experts say abdominal workouts can provide many benefits.

"Your abdominals and your entire core, including your pelvic floor, should be strengthened throughout pregnancy, and doing so will help not only during pregnancy, but also aid in labor and delivery -- and recovery," says Sue Fleming, a certified fitness instructor. Fleming is also founder of Buff and creator of the video Buff Moms-To-Be.

Moreover, Fleming says, it's going to help with posture problems which will also benefit you after baby is born.

Because you should avoid any exercises that you have to do on your back after the first trimester, Fleming suggests gentle standing pelvic tilts, seated belly breathing, or tightening abs, holding, then releasing, as good ways to keep ab muscles in top condition.

Myth or Fact: If you were a runner before pregnancy, you can continue to run during pregnancy.

Fact. As long as you and your pregnancy are healthy, and you feel OK, experts say it's safe to run right up until you go into labor. "Both ACOG and the National Academy of Sports Medicine have said that if you were running prior to pregnancy, you can continue during pregnancy, as long as you feel OK," says Hruska.

If it does start to feel "odd," she says, listen to your body and don't do it. She also reminds us that this is not the time to break any performance records. "Also realize that as your pregnancy progresses, you're going to be able to do a little less with each trimester. So don't compete with your pre-pregnancy running achievements, or even with what you could accomplish in a previous trimester," says Hruska. Talk to your doctor about your exercise plan and any precautions that may pertain to your individual situation.

Myth or Fact: Pregnancy can make you more prone to certain fitness injuries.

Fact. During pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin. It's designed to help lubricate joints so labor is easier. When joints are too "lax," your risk of injury increases.

"What you want to avoid are any activities involving deep muscle or joint movements -- heavy lunges, squats, those types of activities," says Fleming.

Farrell warns us to be careful during the flexibility portion of any workout. "You're going to find you have an increased range of motion, but that's not necessarily a good thing, because it can lead to injury," says Hruska. To avoid problems, she says, stay inside your pre-pregnancy range of motion. "Just because you now find it easy to reach well beyond your toes, doesn't mean you should!" says Hruska.

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