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An exercise programme designed four years ago specifically for pregnant women has been credited with contributing to healthy pregnancies.
David Shmukler, one of the three founders of Preggie Bellies gym, the first of its kind in South Africa, says the programme has contributed to the speedy delivery of babies and quick recovery of moms.
"The programme looks after each and every one of our moms - if you miss a class we give you a call to find out why, if you're upset we offer support, if your motivation is flagging we'll be there to help you pick it back up and when you have your baby we want to know his or her name and how much he or she weighs, but most importantly, we want to help you make sure that your pregnancy is as healthy as possible and that your baby's birth is as easy as possible," he says.
An expectant mom from Cape Town says going to the gym at Preggie Bellies has contributed to her positive experience of being pregnant.
"I strongly maintain that my good health for the last six months has been largely due to the programme and my commitment to keeping fit and being positive," she says.
Another mom who just had her baby by Caesarean section says the exercises helped her to recover quicker.
Shmukler says the programme combines cardiovascular and weight training as recommended by the American and Canadian colleges of gynaecology.
"The programme consists of one-hour-long exercise classes and are performed two or three times a week. They combine cardio, strength training and core stability work on the specialised mediball, all to the sound of latest music," he says.
He says the exercises, developed by physiotherapists, increase cardiovascular fitness and strengthen and tone most major muscle groups.
Their instructors, Shmukler says, are trained to modify exercises to suit most pregnancy-related complications.
The exercises can be continued right up to term. They contribute to decreased labour complications and weight gain and they speed up recovery post-birth.
"The programme is so popular that more and more gynaecologists are referring pregnant patients to Preggi Bellies," says Shmukler.
He says more than 1000 pregnant women have trained at Preggie Bellies since its beginning.
Preggi Bellies classes are held in Johannesburg (Bedfordview, Bryanston, Fourways, Melrose, Parkmore, Randburg, Rivonia), Pretoria (Centurion and Pretoria East) and Cape Town (Blaauwberg, Claremont, Durbanville, Sea Point).