Simple fitness that works, from pregnancy to seasoned athlete.

Fit Pregnancy: The Pregnant Athlete

You’ve been active, working out 4 – 6 times a week. Maybe you run races or compete in a sport. Now you are pregnant and you have a few questions.

First, we are going to discuss what you can and should do. Then we are going to get into some common mistakes made during fit pregnancies/ by pregnant athletes.

The following to guide for fit pregnancies should be followed in addition to our comprehensive Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Guidelines.

What to Expect as Your Body Changes

The total blood volume in regularly exercising pregnant women is 10 – 15 percent higher than in women who do not exercise. The benefits of cardio (aerobic exercise) are still present 6 – 12 months after birth, which is why some athletes have improved performance after birth.

You might feel frustrated by some of the limitations that pregnancy places on your agility. For example, weight gain and laxity in ligaments and joints reduce your running speed. The weight in pregnancy increases the force on your hips and knees. Your fine motor skills might feel sluggish, and you might try to compensate for your loss of dexterity by using your body in awkward ways, inviting injury as a result.

Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines

Pregnant women have the same exercise guidelines as non-pregnant women — aim for 30+ minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. For exercise sessions longer than 45 minutes, there are extra precautions (see below). Exercise should not exceed pre-pregnancy levels. You can continue running as long as you were running prior to pregnancy. Read the top 10 tips for running during pregnancy. For fit pregnancy workouts, use our pregnancy library.

Pregnancy Programs in the Studio

The “intensity” of a prenatal fitness plan is going to depend on a number of factors, including your prior experience with exercise, your health history, the status of the pregnancy, and your personal tolerance for exertion. Overall, the intensity of your exercise sessions should be somewhat hard or somewhat hard. Be sure to talk with your doctor or midwife about your specific situation before you exercise.

Somewhat Active: When you are somewhat active (participating in exercise and activities a few times a week) 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity is encouraged. 20 – 30 minutes on most days is a good goal. In addition to aerobic activity, strength training should be done every other day.

Exercise Veteran or “Recreational Athlete”: When you habitually engage in exercise, you can and should continue your regimen, adjusted over time. Research recommends intensity should be between 60 – 80 percent of maximum maternal heart rate.

Competitive Athlete: You require frequent and close supervision due to a more strenuous training schedule. Be aware that athletes can push their limits of pain and intensity. Any session over 45 minutes can lead to low blood sugar, so limiting the exercise session or ingesting adequate caloric intake prior to and during exercise is important.

Elite Athlete: If you have several years experience or your particular sport is your profession, you require frequent and close supervision due to a more strenuous training schedule.

Pregnant Athlete Safety

  • Avoid hyperthermia — an elevated body temperature. This can be triggered by environment, hydration, and/or intensity of routine. Avoid excessive activity in the heat and humidity to protect against heat stress. Exercise doesn’t usually increase core temperature to a point of concern. Your pregnant body is intelligent. To date, the effects of hot yoga/hot Pilates have not been published in studies; there are a few observational studies. ACOG emphasizes regulating core temperature during activity, while ACSM explicitly recommends avoiding hot yoga and hot Pilates. Stated simply, this decision should be made between you and your healthcare provider.
  • Maintain adequate caloric intake to prevent low blood sugar, especially if the workout is longer than 45 minutes in duration.
  • Maintain weight gain as recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Maintain proper hydration, increase water intake throughout exercise and maintain proper water intake throughout the day.
  • Be aware of injuries due to joint laxity.  Relaxin is a wonderful hormone that allows the body to accommodate pregnancy, but it also creates loose joints and stability.
  • Avoid the Valsalva maneuver or holding your breath.
  • Refrain from getting overtired.
  • Perform a thorough warmup and cool down.
  • Know when to adjust routine due to lack of coordination or discomfort.
  • Maintain a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) between 13 – 14. A combination of recent research indicates you should use a heart rate monitor, as athletes tend to “push” through.
  • Discontinue exercise if any of the following occur: vaginal bleeding, regular painful contractions, amniotic fluid leakage, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, chest pain, muscle weakness affecting balance, calf pain, or anything that does not feel “right.”
  • There are several anatomical changes and fetal requirements that require first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester modifications to your current exercise routine.

Download the Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Guide

Smart fitness for moms in any stage: bump, new baby, and beyond.