Question

Exercise During Pregnancy

How much can I exercise during pregnancy?

A Answers (4)

  • APaula Greer, Midwifery Nursing, answered

    Exercise during pregnancy should always be discussed with your midwife or ob/gyn. There may be special considerations that you need to consider. This is what I tell my patients.

    If you were not exercising on a regular basis prior to the pregnancy you should probably limit yourself to 15 minutes of sustained exercise and be supervised starting out. You can monitor your heart rate or do the talk test to assure you are at an appropriate intensity.

    If you were doing a structured exercise program at least 3x a week or an athlete in training you may be allowed to continue exercising with appropriate exercises for pregnancy for 30-45 minutes 3x a week.

    Exercise during pregnancy should not cause pain or breathlessness or be done at such an intensity that you are working up an extreme sweat or overheating yourself and the baby. Remember to keep your target heart rate at 50 percent and to stay well hydrated.

    Certain conditions in pregnancy prohibit exercise. These include pre-eclampsia, pregnancy induced hypertension, premature rupture of membranes and preterm labor, incompetent cervix, persistent bleeding in the second trimester, intrauterine growth retardation, multiple gestations at risk for preterm labor, and patient with restricted lung and cardiovascular disease.

    It may not be a good idea if you have asthma, anemia, a compulsive disorder to exercise or if trying to find time to exercise is causing extreme stress. Write down and discuss your questions about pregnancy and exercise at your next prenatal visit.

  • ADorcas McLennan, Obstetrics & Gynecology, answered on behalf of Swedish

    For healthy women, moderate exercise several times a week throughout pregnancy helps promote good health. Exercise helps women keep their muscles toned, work off emotional stress, ease back pain, avoid constipation and hemorrhoids and ease leg cramps. It also helps with tolerating the labor and birth process simply due to better conditioning.

    There is no evidence that women need to limit their exercise intensity or lower target heart rates when they are pregnant. Because there is less oxygen available for aerobic exercise during pregnancy, you may not be able to work at your pre-pregnant level, and it will get harder the further along you are in the pregnancy. Remember to pace yourself and not to exercise to exhaustion. Avoid becoming overheated, especially during the first trimester. And always stay well hydrated.

  • ADawn Marcus, Neurology, answered
    Follow these guidelines on how much to exercise during pregnancy:
    • Talk to your doctor about any exercise restrictions you may have.
    • Start low and go slow. If you have been inactive before becoming pregnant, take your time getting to the target of 30 minutes per day.
    • Limit individual exercise sessions to a maximum of 30 minutes.
    • Ideally, do several 10-15 minute exercise sessions throughout the day, rather than a single longer session.
    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) cautions that pregnancy is not a good time to improve your level of physical fitness, especially if you were reasonably active before pregnancy, in which case you can expect your overall fitness and activity level to drop somewhat as you go through pregnancy.
  • AKim McCulloch, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology, answered on behalf of Intermountain Healthcare
    Exercise during pregnancy is a very important part of the health of the pregnancy, especially for women who have been exercising prior to pregnancy. Most women who have been exercising prior to pregnancy can continue their exercise plan as it was. I've even had patients who've run marathons during their early pregnancy, because they're that fit. Certainly, the exercise tolerance decreases for a lot of women, so they have to back off their exercise.

    There is not a specific amount or duration of exercise that women need to maintain. For women that are just starting an exercise program, I think that walking, swimming or low-impact aerobics are helpful, but it does need to be gradually obtained.

    Endurance needs to be gradually obtained through the course of a pregnancy, and women should expect that their exercise tolerance will decrease, but it can definitely be worked back up during the second trimester. Most women have good energy levels and can continue to exercise at whatever amount they're comfortable with.
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