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    Got Pregnancy? Get Exercise

    The right kinds of exercise are key to staying fit, healthy, and happy during your pregnancy.

    Pregnancy Exercise Precautions continued...

    Work out to get the benefits, but don't push yourself too hard.

    Getting your heart rate up is healthy, according to ACOG, as long as you can talk normally while exercising. Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and lungs. If your doctor says it's OK, enroll in a low-impact or water aerobics class specially designed for pregnant women. Or try riding a stationary bike.

    But don't overexert yourself, Rabin says. She advises pregnant women to take a break about every 20 minutes when they're working out or playing a sport. Most pregnant women can exercise without problems, but it's important to know when to stop and call the doctor. If you have shortness of breath before exertion, dizziness, severe headache, chest pain, muscle weakness, signs of preterm labor (such as contractions or lower abdominal cramping), vaginal bleeding, decreased fetal movement, or amniotic fluid leakage, Artal says, "these are warning signs to terminate exercise."

    Adapt to the changes in your pregnant body.

    There's a pregnancy hormone called "relaxin," and it does exactly what its name implies: It relaxes your pelvic ligaments so you can give birth more easily. Thank goodness for relaxin, but be aware that it also makes your joints less stable. It's smart to avoid jerky, bouncy, or high-impact movements, such as jumping or leaping, as well as making quick shifts in direction. "You want to be sure you're not overstressing and causing injury and tearing of tendons and ligaments in the joints," Rabin says.

    Some sports are best left for later. Try scuba diving after the baby comes.

    Forget about downhill skiing, scuba diving, or contact sports, such as ice hockey, soccer, and basketball, according to ACOG. Sometimes, a pregnant woman can find a better alternative, such as cross-country skiing (although there's still a risk of falling, so be extra careful). But overall, it's crucial to avoid hard falls, altitude sickness, large amounts of underwater pressure, or any trauma to the abdomen. "It suddenly becomes a matter of judgment," Artal says. "Do you want to expose yourself to the risk of getting injured?"

    So save the high-intensity activities for a later day. You can always pick up your sport again -- and teach Junior to ski down a bunny hill or kick a game-winning goal.

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    Reviewed on June 19, 2012

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