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Prenatal cardio exercises are a great way to stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy. Are you having trouble deciding which work out you should choose, or are you not sure whether or not your chosen activity is safe while you are expecting?

Why work out and why cardio?

All expectant moms who are enjoying a healthy, low-risk pregnancy benefit from physical activity. It's fair to say that getting regular exercise is essential for all pregnant women who can be physically active. You don't have to go to a gym to get a good work out in of course; taking a long, leisurely walking with your partner or using the stairs all the way to the top of the building you work in are both examples of cardio "work outs" that can't really be considered work outs.

There are, in other words, lots of different ways to get your cardio work outs in. Cardio exercises increase your stamina, and will keep your rapidly growing body more mobile. Being fit when you give birth is also very likely to make labor and delivery easier on you. Giving birth is, after all, like a marathon. The more endurance you have, the less of a struggle it will be. Being fit will also help you have a faster and smoother postpartum recovery, though strong pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles play an equally important role in that as cardio exercises.

Regular cardio exercise also, studies suggest, reduces your likelihood of developing gestational diabetes. Along with that, you have a reduced chance of a baby with fetal macrosomia (an unusually heavy and large baby) if you exercise throughout your pregnancy. According to some, cardio exercises can even reduce the risk of pregnancy constipation, which is a common problem. If you do your exercises outside, you'll also enjoy fresh air and sunshine, which offer additional health benefits.

Finally, exercise releases endorfins and makes people feel happier and better about themselves. A good cardio work out certainly has the potential to make short-term stress go away, and regular cardio exercises will help keep your stress levels down permanently. Who doesn't need a bit of stress relief during pregnancy? If your pregnancy is healthy and you are healthy, the only question should be which exercises to do, not whether you should exercise.

Which cardio exercises are best during pregnancy?

Are you looking for some great cardio exercises that you can safely get involved in when you are expecting a baby? You have much more choice than you may think. Walking alone is a great activity if you do it regularly enough, and long enough. Walking to work, around the park, in a shopping mall, or in your home on a stepper while watching TV are all options.

Swimming, cycling (see bicycling and pregnancy for more info), and prenatal fitness classes are all great options as well. Vigorously cleaning your house, gardening, or playing active games with children (yours, or other peoples') are all possibilities as well.

For those pregnant women who were already really fit and active when they conceived, jogging and running could be good workouts as well. If you didn't already run or jog before you got pregnant, your nine months are not the best time to start these new, vigorous exercise regimes. Talk to your doctor before you start intensive work out programs.

During your work outs, you should always keep in mind that your body has different needs than it did before you got pregnant. Always keep a bottle of water with you, and use it to avoid dehydration. Take frequent breaks, especially if you notice yourself getting out of breath. And stop your work out as soon as you feel any abdominal pain or other discomforts. Prenatal exercise may be one of the keys to a health pregnancy, but listening to your body's warning signs and stopping when appropriate is another.

  • Photo courtesy of -stock photos
  • Photo courtesy of -stock photos

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