Be a water baby

Aqua or water aerobics is good for you, but unlike all those other things that are good for you, it's also energising and fun.

Among its long list of benefits are the control of weight gain during pregnancy and the reduction of post-partum tummy as well as helping you cope with changing hormones, reducing stress and postnatal depression, and giving you an opportunity to meet other 'new mothers'.

On top of all this, exercising in water also reduces the incidence of back pain during pregnancy; promotes an easier and shorter labour; and speeds up weight loss after pregnancy. And, finally, if you're still not convinced, it improves your health and that of your baby.

Water exercises can be adapted to any fitness level, and because water offers resistance, the exercises build muscle strength,while aiding stamina and suppleness. Further, water's buoyancy also reduces impact on the joints, although you'll most likely be advised by your instructor to stay low in the water, rather than taking part in any jumping or impact exercises that may be included in the class.

In fact, it's best to avoid any exercise type that requires quick movements such as jumping, twisting or sudden changes in direction – when you're pregnant your centre of gravity affects your balance and co-ordination, so falls become more likely. Once again,water has a cushioning effect, and slipping or falling should not typically result in any injury, but precautions should still be taken.You may opt, for example, to wear rubber-soled aqua shoes, these provide extra grip on the pool floor.

Aqua-aerobics classes have become popular at many health clubs, and include a warm-up, a lively cardio-respiratory workout, a full-body conditioning component, and a soothing cool-down. You don't need to be an excellent swimmer to take part, and you also don't need to worry about the cold, as the pools at most clubs are heated to a comfortable level of around 26 to 28 degrees.

A note of caution
The precautions to bear in mind when exercising during pregnancy are simple: aim to maintain your current level of fitness – don't try to improve it.

The recommended frequency of exercising is every other day, and the intensity should not exceed seventy five percent of your maximum age-predicted heart rate, although professional athletes may be comfortable exercising at more intense levels than this, even while pregnant. They should instead aim not to prolong these intense intervals for over fifteen minutes.

Exercises sessions should range from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on fitness level, and your heart rate after stopping should return to below 120 beats per minute.

Overheating (achieving a body temperature of above 38 degrees)is potentially dangerous for the foetus, so exercising in water has the benefit of a cooling effect. In hot weather, reduce the intensity and duration of your exercise sessions, and be sure to drink sufficient fluid.

If you suffer from water retention, aqua aerobics is the perfect choice – studies show that submersion in water promotes the bladder to work, and after the class, increased urination will flush excess water out of the body.

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