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Exercise
 
Exercising while you are reducing or quitting smoking is a great idea. Exercise has been shown to make quitting or reducing smoking easier. It can also help if you worry about gaining weight when you are quitting or reducing smoking or after giving birth.
 
Exercise can be much easier if you have quit or reduced smoking. When you stop smoking, the body begins to repair itself fairly quickly and can recover even faster when you exercise as well.  
 
Can I exercise when I am pregnant?
 
For most women, exercise is recommended during pregnancy and can give you more energy, lower stress, improve your mood, help you sleep better and make giving birth easier. Exercise can help reduce the need for cigarettes when you feel stressed because it is one of the best ways to lower stress.  
 
Research shows that moderate exercise is safe during a healthy pregnancy, even if you did not exercise before you were pregnant. It is best to do workouts that get your heart beating faster- cardiovascular or aerobic exercise.  But make sure you don’t get it going too fast – you should be about to talk during your workout and not be short of breath.  
 
How can I fit exercise into my life?
 
You don’t have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment to get regular exercise. Brisk walking is a great aerobic activity for pregnant women and new moms.  Walking can be a great way to avoid cravings to smoke.  You don’t have to have a formal exercise routine. Choose something active that you really enjoy doing and change it often so that you don't get bored.
 
Many women find it difficult to find the time to make exercise a habit.   One way to help this is to plan it into your week. If you plan to exercise on certain days of the week at a specified time, you will be more likely to do so.  Another good idea is to make plans with friends or your partner to exercise together, or take classes in your community. Looking forward to spending time with others and having their support can help you get regular exercise.
 
Some cardio exercises that are good for increasing your heart rate during pregnancy are: swimming, riding a stationary bike, cross country skiing, dance and aerobics. Check your community for aerobics or Pilates classes for pregnant women. Also, you can borrow pregnancy workout DVDs from your local library.
 
What should I know before I exercise during my pregnancy?
 
There are several things to think about when making a workout plan during your pregnancy. The activities you do and the way you do them may have to be changed. 
Here are some things to think about:
  • Talk about your workout plan with your doctor, nurse, midwife or doula before you start. If you have medical conditions such as: diabetes, heart disease, placenta previa, vaginal bleeding, or high blood pressure and depending on how your pregnancy is going, they may suggest a modified or light workout plan.  Sometimes you may have to wait until after the baby is born to exercise. 
  • Do not do activities such as scuba diving that could result in a lack of oxygen to the fetus.  Also try not to do activities where there is a chance of falling such as: horseback riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics and cycling. 
  • You shouldn’t do lunges, knee bends and sit ups. After the fourth month, don’t exercise lying flat on your back.
  • Stay cool during your workout by not exercising for a long time.  Do not exercise in hot or humid weather, wear layers of clothing that you can take off, and drink lots of water before, during and after exercise.
  • If you have not been exercising, start with a workout that is 15 minutes or less.  As you get more comfortable, you can exercise for up to 30 minutes.  Try to exercise 3-5 times a week to get the most benefit for you and your baby.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and a good support bra when you workout.
  • Always warm-up before you start exercising and cool down when you are getting to the end of your workout. Warm-ups get your joints and muscles ready for a workout, help build your heart rate up slowly and prevent strains and pulls. To cool down, walk in place for a few minutes or do stretches to return your heart rate to normal slowly.
  • Listen to your body. If you are uncomfortable or feel pain, are dizzy, short of breath, feel faint, are bleeding from the vagina, have difficulty walking, feel contractions or feel the baby move in an unusual way, stop immediately.
What are kegel exercises and why are they recommended during pregnancy?
 
Kegel exercises help to strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor.  These are the muscles that help control urination and support the extra weight of your baby.
 
Benefits of kegel exercises include: 
  • Can help prevent urine leaks caused by the extra weight of the baby on the bladder
  • Help strengthen your core
  • Ensure healthy vaginal tissue
  • Can help with constipation that is common in pregnancy
To do kegel exercises, contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles. To find these muscles, squeeze the muscles that you use when you are trying to stop the flow of urine.  Squeeze them for a few seconds, then let go. Your doctor, nurse, midwife or doula can help you find the correct muscles if you are unsure. Do not tighten other muscles at the same time, hold your breath or do kegels while you are urinating. A good idea is to do kegels when you cool down at the end of your workout.
 
If you have more questions about exercising during pregnancy, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor, nurse, midwife or doula.  You can also call the Exercise and Pregnancy Helpline: a free service that gives information about exercise during pregnancy to pregnant women and women who want to get pregnant. This includes athletes, women who are active and women who want to start exercising during pregnancy. Call toll free: 1-866-937-7678 or click here to visit the website.