Published November 02, 2007
Have you been eating too many baby cookies? Above and beyond the physical benefits, there are many emotional and social benefits to be gained from joining an exercise program, especially for pregnant women and new mothers. Pregnancy fitness classes build a marvelous sense of camaraderie and support. They help you keep your sense of humor about your rapidly changing body and bolster your commitment to exercise because of the structure and community spirit.
In evaluating a pregnancy fitness program, use the following checklist questions:
- Do the women consult their physician before enrolling in the exercise class? Do they have to present their physician’s consent in writing before participating in the first class?
- Are they told that if they have any bleeding, cramping and other symptoms, they should stop the exercise or activity and consult their physician immediately?
- Do the exercise classes start with a warm-up period consisting of mild to moderate stretching and light exercise?
- Do the exercise classes’ end with a cool down period consisting of less strenuous exercises and stretching or relaxation exercises?
- Do the exercises stress correct posture and body alignment?
- Do the exercises avoid severe stretching? [ligaments in pregnancy loosen and joints are less stable]
- Are participants encouraged to breathe deeply and not hold their breath during the floor exercise?
- Do the exercises include calf- stretches to help prevent and help treat leg cramps?
- Are pelvic floor [Kegel] exercises incorporated into the class exercise?
- Are abdominal strengthening exercises included? [they should not be strenuous] are the women told to protect their lower backs during these exercises by doing a pelvic lift and by using slow, controlled moves? Is there prolonged exercising while lying on the back? [Such a movement should be maintained for one minute at the maximum, by the clock, and then the position should be changed].
- Do the classes include aerobic or cardiovascular exercises [twenty minutes at the maximum] along with muscle strengthening and stretching? [If not, the class is incomplete].
- Is the exercise program pulse monitored? If not, why not?
- Are the women taught correct body mechanics and energy saving techniques [for example, for lifting, walking, standing, sitting, cleaning and getting out of bed]?
- Are any exercises done with the women on their hands and knees? [This is an excellent position to relieve back pressure and to increase circulation to both mother and fetus. Abdominal and hip exercises can be done in this position. The abdomen should be kept tight-don’t let the baby hang down.].
- Are exercises included to strengthen the pectoral muscles? [This is important to lend support to the breasts, and to aid in lifting the baby later.]
- Does the class include exercises to stretch inner thigh muscles and to limber up the hip joints [which will allow a woman to be more comfortable in the lithotomic position - on the back with the feet up and knees spread wide apart-if it is used during delivery.]?
- Are shoulder stretches or relaxation exercises taught? Did the instructor complete a training program to qualify her to teach exercises? Where? How long was it?
- How long has she been teaching pregnancy fitness classes?
- Who designed the exercise program? Who is responsible for safety?
- What is the cost of the exercise program? How many classes are included in a series?