Before you move forward with pregnancy workouts, we need to discuss some of the basics of exercising during pregnancy. If pregnancy hasn’t taught your already, overall, your body is incredibly smart! As it grows a tiny human being, it adjusts your blood pressure, expands your rib cage, and increases your blood volume, among many other amazing things…all without you telling it to do so. So, listen to your body! It will tell you what’s too much and when you should take it easy. But, keep in mind, these adaptations are unique for every pregnant woman and not every woman will respond to exercise during pregnancy in the same way.
- You can safely exercise at least 20-30 minutes most days a week and adjust as needed. Be sure that your pregnancy workouts include a combination of aerobic, flexibility and strength exercises. We have a full library of pregnancy workouts – try them free!
- You should aim to exercise for less than 45-50 minutes at a time. Also, you should avoid working out in hot and humid environments. Sorry, Mamas, hot yoga will have to wait until after your baby is born! Note: If you do exercise for more than 50 minutes, see our athlete suggestions.
- If you already have a moderate exercise routine, keep it up! But, if you were previously inactive, don’t suddenly start an aggressive exercise routine. You can certainly start up a new routine, but be sure to take it slow and steady. And there’s good news for you exercise veterans – you should be able to sustain the same amount of working out with some modifications.
Talk Test – Talk it Through!
If you can’t speak a full-sentence while exercising, you are doing too much. As a woman’s heart rate response changes throughout pregnancy (it increases in early pregnancy, then gradually, but continually, falls throughout the latter trimesters), the past overall recommendation was to keep your heart rate to a maximum of 140 beats per minute (BPM) during exercise. This guideline assumed that all pregnant women with a heart rate of 140 BPM are exerting the same amount of effort during physical activity. Since a pregnant woman is simply not pumping blood through her own body, but also her unborn child’s, she has a lower volume of blood circulating than when she is not pregnant. Thus, her heart needs to work harder (i.e. a faster heart rate) to compensate. This is why it’s important to pay attention to how hard you are working during pregnancy exercise. Please note that your doctor’s recommendations always supersede this advice. So, if your OB recommends you stay under 140 BPM, then that is the protocol that you should follow.
- FYI: If you are a regular exerciser, you may recognize you are pregnant sooner than a test reveals, as your normal exercise routine will indicate a higher than usual heart rate.
- You should avoid using a heart rate monitor to determine the correct heart rate for your body during pregnancy exercise (unless you are an athlete with longer training sessions). A pregnant woman’s heart rate fluctuates throughout gestation, therefore making it difficult for you to determine from a number on a monitor just how hard your body is actually working. So, listening to your body, making note of the Talk Test should keep both you and your baby safe during pregnancy exercise.
- Athletes: Recent research indicates that you should use a heart rate monitor in addition to your Rate of Perceived Exertion score. Athletes tend to push through comfort levels while exercising, so tracking the heart rate with a monitor is strongly suggested.
For all of our pregnancy exercise guidelines, download our Prenatal & Postnatal Starter Pack.