HOUGHTON - While exercise may not be the No. 1 priority when a woman finds out she is pregnant, it is an important step in staying healthy throughout the nine months.
That is why the Portage Health Fitness Center has added "Oh Baby" prenatal fitness to its list of classes for the fall. Emily Kunnen, the personal trainer and instructor for the course - who is pregnant herself - developed the course to help local women stay active and healthy while pregnant.
"There are many benefits involved with exercise while you're pregnant," Kunnen said. "Just a few of them are to ease pain and discomfort, boost energy and reduce the risk of complications and diseases associated with pregnancy."
Energy may come at a premium for pregnant women, especially in the first and third trimesters, getting up and doing even a little bit of exercise can help boost energy, according to Kunnen.
"In the first trimester ... a lot of women start losing energy," Kunnen said. "If they can just pull through and move a little bit, that investment can bring them more energy. ... It's just a matter of getting the body moving, and you'll typically leave with more energy."
The class will focus on cardiovascular work, strength training, flexibility and relaxation exercises. No matter what stage of pregnancy a woman is in, modifications will be made to suit each person.
"We will do exercises with an intensity that's appropriate for each person and each trimester of pregnancy," Kunnen said.
In the first trimester, not much needs to be changed in a person's exercise regimen, according to Kunnen. As long as a person doesn't overdo it, she should be fine.
When the second trimester, arrives, however, more care needs to be taken when exercising.
"In the second trimester, women shouldn't be laying on their back flat," Kunnen said. "The intensity should be taken down, and they should focus on keeping their body temperature at a good level."
Body temperature is among the elements of pregnancy exercise which some may not know about - another positive facet of the class.
"The class focuses on things a lot of people wouldn't know," Kunnen said. "We learn how to exercise effectively and safely."
In the third trimester, the focus shifts even more, as the exercise must be dialed back even more.
"In the third trimester, we just focus on staying comfortable," Kunnen said. "Women can still do exercises at a lower intensity, but the real benefits are through flexibility and relaxation. It helps them prep for labor that way."
The class also offers a safe, supportive environment comprised of other pregnant women.
"People can have that support in that they all understand each other," Kunnen said. "Even with me as an instructor (who is also pregnant), I can show them they're in a supportive environment.
"You have a lot of insecurities when people's bodies are changing," she continued. "Hopefully this does really encourage women to come in and try it out."
Nonetheless, pregnant women should first check with their doctor before starting any exercise program, just to make sure there are no conditions that could harm them or the baby.
The class starts Sept. 10 and runs from 7 to 8 a.m. Tuesday and Thursdays through Nov. 30. People can sign up for just a class or two to try it out or sign up for the entire course.
"You don't have to sign up for a certain amount of classes," Kunnen said.
"Oh Baby" prenatal fitness will take place at Portage Health Fitness Center located at 921 W. Sharon Ave. in Houghton. Classes are $5 each for the general public and $48 for all 16 classes for members of the fitness center. For more information, call Kunnen at 483-1530.