In 2015 new guidelines were released on Exercise during Pregnancy and Postpartum. So just what is safe? Hot Yoga? Crossfit? High Intensity Training?
When gauging the intensity of exercise during pregnancy, the RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) is recommended.
ACOG also recommends using the Talk Test – if you cannot speak a full sentence while exercising, the intensity is too high.
The Talk Test and RPE scale are both recommended over heart rate monitors.
Overall, exercise should not exceed pre-pregnancy levels. So pregnancy is not the best time to start something new, stick to what you were doing or start out slowly (read more about that here). ACSM suggests that moderate to hard is quite safe for a woman who is accustomed to this level of exercise.
Depending which trimester you are in, your RPE will gauge differently. If you are in your first trimester and spend most of your day fatigued, tired and nauseous, your 13-14 range will be achieved by very little. If you are in your third trimester and was up five times overnight using the bathroom your 13-14 range will be achieved by very little. But, if your are in your second trimester and feeling “normal” and energetic your 13-14 range will only be achieved by doing more. So gauge appropriately.
Safe aerobic exercise during pregnancy includes: walking, swimming, stationary cycling, low-impact aerobics, racquet sports, running or jogging. Unless your client was running or playing racquet sports prior to getting pregnant, these should not be initiated during pregnancy.
Safe strength-training exercise includes: Pilates, Yoga, body weight exercises and strength training with free weights (avoiding the abdomen). Hot Yoga and Hot Pilates are not recommended.
Next we will cover a topic with little research and a lot of controversy. I had the privelege of working with one of the co-authors of the 2015 ACOG Pregnancy Exercise Guidelines. And in writing my Prenatal & Postnatal Specialist Course I thought it would be best to explain the facts behind High Intensity exercise during pregnancy.
Takeaway: The “intensity” of an exercise program is based on various factors, including your exercise history and general health. You should always consult with your doctor and decide what kind of plan would works best. Both ACOG and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggest using RPE as mentioned above to gauge exertion.
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