Exercise during pregnancy makes birth “a piece of cake”

Exercise during pregnancy makes birth “a piece of cake”

So you’re having a baby. Be the first to give your unborn bundle of joy a present — the gift of health — nine months of health, to help baby start life right. The importance of staying away from alcohol and cigarettes while managing stress levels and maintaining a healthful diet is well known. Kelly

So you’re having a baby. Be the first to give your unborn bundle of joy a present — the gift of health — nine months of health, to help baby start life right.

The importance of staying away from alcohol and cigarettes while managing stress levels and maintaining a healthful diet is well known.

Kelly Hall added another element to her health regimen when she worked out almost up to the day of delivery in June 2006. When Hall was eight months pregnant, she spent 50 minutes a day on the elliptical trainer, followed with squats on a leg press machine and 8-pound weights for upper body strength.

“That gives me enough of a burn so I feel it, but not so much of a strain on my heart so I can’t breath,’’ Hall said.

A distance runner who had entered several 5K races, Hall said she kicked back during her first pregnancy. The result? She gained 50 pounds and had a long and difficult labor.

During her second pregnancy, she put her then 3-year-old son, Hudson, in a play group when she did an hour of exercise.

Hall worked full-time as a middle-school teacher until a month before the baby was due. She said her husband, Jason, an avid mountain cyclist, helped her develop a workout program, while she was under the care of her father-in-law, Doug Hall, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Ocala, Fla.

Known in town as a “pioneer of healthy pregnancy,’’ Doug Hall has practiced medicine for 38 years and has delivered nearly 11,000 babies. After watching his first wife go through a difficult pregnancy and exhausting labor, Hall started an exercise program for expectant mothers early in his career.

He bought Nautilus equipment and set up a gym downstairs from his practice. He researched, devised some simple exercises, monitored metabolism rates and recorded his patients’ nutritional habits. His wife was his first test subject, and her second pregnancy went easier.

“It was a piece of cake,’’ Hall said. “She labored for 1 1/2 hours, pushed three times and had the baby.’’

Hall’s fitness program had far-reaching effects. His first Pregnagym blossomed into a franchise of 18 centers across the nation. In his book, “Making Mama Fit’’ (Human Kinetics, $16.95), he emphasized the importance of maintaining a healthy body through the entire nine months of pregnancy — and after.

Doug Hall recommends each woman be evaluated by her doctor before beginning any exercise regime. For workouts, he recommends using a fitness instructor or physical therapist.

The doctor offers these tips to help pregnant women keep fit:

  • Take vitamins prescribed by your doctor, but also eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals for nourishment.
  • When working out, monitor your heart rate and do not allow it to go over 140.
  • Take brisk walks, but not in areas where you can be exposed to automobile exhaust fumes.
  • Whenever you get a chance, engage in simple exercises, such as standing pushups in a corner.

After delivery, new moms are free to get back in shape.

Lynn Leonard is a living testimony of that. The 5-foot-4-inch mother of two weighs 110 pounds, and last year she placed fifth overall in the women’s division in the Disney Marathon — only 8 1/2 weeks after giving birth to her second child.

A long-distance runner, Leonard has run 21 marathons and was first overall among women in four of them. She ran almost up to her delivery date. If you’re already a runner, you can do it, Leonard said. However, if you are a novice runner, “this is no time to train for a marathon.

“By the time you’re eight or nine months pregnant, it’s not called running, it’s called waddling,’’ said Leonard, who switched her program for her second pregnancy. “I felt like I got a better workout doing the elliptical machine and lifting weights.’’

With the birthing behind her, Leonard purchased a jogging buggy. She bought a two-seater, so both children could ride along.

Whatever workout program a woman chooses, the benefits are lasting. In Leonard’s case, she also likes to focus on keeping a good mental attitude and feeling good about oneself.

“I think being pregnant is a wonderful thing. I think women should really enjoy that time,’’ she said. “It’s a wonderful time to celebrate and feel that joy. It only happens a couple times in your life. It should be a happy time to enjoy.’’

(Marian Hall writes for the Star-Banner in Ocala, Fla.)

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