Working Out with "Baby on Board"
Birthing a baby takes the strength and stamina of a triathlete. While women were once encouraged to literally take to their beds during pregnancy, today we know that under normal circumstances, regular baby-on-board workouts are best for mother and the child-to-be.

Celebrity personal trainer Michael George says that his A-list clients reap many benefits by training through their pregnancies. He's helped actresses such as Reese Witherspoon, Selma Ward and Meg Ryan get into stellar condition. Most recently, he trained Leilani Sarelle, star of the movie "Basic Instinct" and hit television programs such as "The Unit," through her pregnancy.

  • Less weight gain.

  • Fewer problems such as nausea or cravings.

  • Reduced effects such as swollen ankles or back pain.

  • Easier deliveries.

  • Quicker recovery of their former bodies.

According to the new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans released in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, healthy women should get at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week during and after pregnancy, preferably spread out over the week. Women who are highly active can continue during pregnancy, provided they discuss with their health care providers how and when activities should be adjusted as the pregnancy progresses.

While physicians and others in the maternity care arena say that exercise is important, research by the president of the American College of Sports Medicine, James Pivarnik, and colleagues indicates that nearly half the medical doctors surveyed aren't sure what to tell their pregnant patients about exercise. The study, published in the February 2010 Journal of Women's Health, revealed that, despite updated guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, some docs have antiquated beliefs. Many still believe pregnant women shouldn't push their heart rates beyond 140 beats per minute - a guideline that hasn't been used since 1985.

Before you start on an exercise program, ACOG stresses that you need to discuss with your physician your special needs as well as those pregnancy contributes. Some factors to consider:

  • Balance - As the fetus grows, the center of gravity of a woman's body shifts, which can lead to strained muscles, back aches and even falls.

  • Heart Rate - The extra weight makes the body work harder. Exercise moderately so you don't get fatigued or out of breath.

  • Joints - The ligaments actually loosen so avoid jumping or high-impact motions.

Recommended exercises, even for beginners, are walking, swimming, cycling and low-impact or water aerobics. With medical guidance, running, some racket sports and strength training are safe. Scuba diving, downhill skiing and contact sports are to be avoided.

George offers the number one reason to workout, "You can see they feel better about themselves as pregnant women. They don't feel like a tub of lard, they feel like strong, sexy women."