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Appropriate Exercise for a Pregnant Woman

Exercising during pregnancy helps you control weight gain, decrease stress, increase energy and even make your labor easier. It can also cause serious complications for you and your baby if done incorrectly, so now's not the time to run your first marathon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a pregnant woman get 150 minutes of exercise per week, but every mom-to-be should regularly consult her OB/GYN for personalized exercise guidelines.

Break a Sweat

If you have your doctor's blessing to be active, swimming and walking are the two exercises that you'll probably find most attainable throughout your pregnancy. But because a mom-to-be should always have quick access to medical care, walk in your neighborhood or around a track instead of hiking out into the woods, and swim laps at a pool instead of in a remote body of water. You may be able to run during pregnancy if you were a runner before getting pregnant. See if a local gym offers prenatal dancing, yoga, Pilates and other group exercise classes, or speak to regular class instructors about tailoring class activities to your needs. Alternately, pick up or tune in to prenatal exercise videos or programming.

RELATED: 5 Best Exercises During Pregnancy

Strengthen and Tone

You don't have to change out of your pajamas to exercise. Work on strength building -- when you start carrying and chasing after a growing baby, you'll be grateful for strong muscles. A chair and resistance band is all you need for exercises recommended by Marianne Ryan, a Manhattan-based physical therapist who specialized in prenatal and postpartum fitness. "Try modified squats -- pretend there is a chair behind you and that you are squatting down to sit, [then] stop when you get to chair seat level" before slowly standing back up, she says. Ryan also suggests a seated exercise she calls "saltwater taffy pulls." Holding one end of a resistance band at hip height and the other end at shoulder height, slowly move the shoulder-height hand up at a diagonal, then back down slowly. Finally, she recommends doing Kegel exercises in sitting, side lying and standing positions. While breathing in and out, clench your pelvic muscles as if to stop the flow of urine. Hold for a few seconds and release. These exercises reduce the incontinence that is sometimes a part of pregnancy.

Exercises to Avoid

No matter your fitness level or point in pregnancy, avoid contact sports and exercises that come with a risk of falling, such as horseback riding, skiing or rock climbing. Scuba diving is also unsafe, and you shouldn't exercise in high altitude locations unless you're already acclimated to high altitude. After the first trimester, avoid exercising while lying on your back. The American College of Sports Medicine warns pregnant women not to ride bikes after the first trimester. Any exercise that requires balance is problematic once your belly starts growing and your center of gravity starts shifting. "During the last trimester stay away from one-legged activities, like stepping on a ladder, pushing a box with one foot and yoga poses like the tree and warrior pose," advises Ryan.

RELATED: Pregnancy Dos and Don'ts

Exercise Precautions

Using common sense should keep you safe during exercise. When you're pregnant, it's easy to become overheated. Dress in loose clothing, avoid exercising outdoors during hot weather and stop what you're doing if you start feeling too hot. Sip water before, during and after exercising. Avoid falls by walking on even surfaces and staying indoors when the ground is icy. Stop exercising immediately if you feel dizzy, breathless or unreasonably fatigued. Call your doctor right away if you experience pain, bleeding, shortness of breath or contractions.

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