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The benefits of exercising through pregnancy

Tuesday - 7/16/2013, 8:40am  ET

Strength training increases your metabolism, improves your muscular strength and builds support in your ligaments. (Courtesy Lisa Reed)

Lisa Reed, special to

WASHINGTON - Are you expecting? Congratulations! Now lace up those shoes. It's time to get to work!

Exercising while pregnant is important on many levels. Regular exercise will keep you healthy and feeling great, but it will also benefit your baby.

Plus, being in great shape can be your best friend in the delivery room, and will make it easier to get back in shape after your little bundle is born.

Before you begin your routine, talk with your doctor and a trainer to see what's right for you and your unique pregnancy experience.

If you've never done strength training, now is the time to start. Strength training increases your metabolism, improves your muscular strength and builds support in your ligaments.

Pelvic squats are a great strength training exercise for expectant moms. Strengthening the pelvic floor will help to withstand increases in pressure throughout labor. Resistance bands are an inexpensive and versatile tool that are perfect for these exercises.

Other exercises that benefit mom and baby are abdominal exercises and belly breathing. Adding these components to your routine can help prevent back pain by helping to stabilize the trunk and spine.

Working on your abs also helps in the pushing stage of labor. A stability ball is an excellent tool for developing both abdominal and back strength.

And don't forget about cardio! Cardiovascular fitness helps to increase energy, endurance, and improve stamina during pregnancy, labor and delivery.

For a fitness routine that is more calming, but still packs results, try prenatal yoga and/or water workouts. Yoga will help moms-to-be relax, while focusing on core strength and breathing -- two things that are very important in the delivery room.

Water workouts are low-impact, meaning they can help to reduce impact-related injuries, while also building strength and relaxing your joints and muscles.

Of course, there are other things you can do to contribute to the overall wellness of you and your baby during your pregnancy.

Eating a well-balanced diet is essential. "Eating for two" is a myth; make sure you eat plenty of fruits vegetables, proteins and complex carbohydrates. Drinking plenty of fluids will also help you to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

Lisa Reed teaches a class, Moms to Be, for pregnant women. Lisa is a certified personal trainer in the D.C. area and owner of Lisa Reed Fitness. Read more about Lisa at Follow @lisareedfitness and @WTOPLiving on Twitter.

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