Pregnancy Fitness

Basic guidelines for exercise in pregnancy

It is very important to discuss your athletic and workout activities, as well as your work and home schedule, with your doctor. Unless you have a chronic illness or problems with past pregnancies, you will probably be advised that it is safe to exercise in moderation. When asked for specifics, most physicians follow the very conservative and strict American College of Obstetric and Gynecology Exercise Guidelines.

Standard American College of Obstetric and Gynecology Exercise Guidelines

  • A 10- to 15-minute warm-up
  • An aerobic portion lasting no more than 20 to 30 minutes of easy to moderate intensity
  • A nonimpact activity (no jumping or running)
  • Careful heart rate monitoring to make sure heart rate does not go above 150 maximum, 145 if you are between the ages of 30 and 40, and 140 if you are over age 40
  • A gradual cooldown over a 5-minute period, followed by 5 to 10 minutes of gentle stretching to prevent blood from pooling in the legs and to maintain flexibility
These guidelines are designed to reduce health risks in all women. Athletic women who start at a much higher fitness level can usually tolerate more activity than these guidelines recommend, and no specific research has shown that impact activities are dangerous in healthy pregnancies. There are many accounts of women who jog for exercise throughout their pregnancies. Although this is not recommended for everyone and certainly very few doctors will admit that it is okay, there are also no specific studies to prove that it poses harm to the developing baby.

Still, moderation is an excellent adjective for all things in pregnancy; nothing, especially not exercise, should be done to excess. If you are a high-level athlete or exerciser who routinely does more than one hour a day of exercise, one hour a day should now be your maximum. Remember, even elite professional and competitive athletes can stay well trained with less activity during pregnancy because pregnancy is a constant "training state," stressing the body to physical limits in similar ways that exercise does. If you feel you are someone who is "addicted" to exercise and are not comfortable limiting yourself to one hour a day, you should see a counselor or therapist to determine why. Your mental health is just as important to the baby's health as your physical health is.

Basic Guidelines for Exercise in Pregnancy

  • Rest if you feel tired.
  • Avoid feeling hot.
  • Do not let yourself get thirsty.
  • Slow down if you feel short of breath.
  • Do not work out for more than 45 minutes at a time.
  • Have a snack immediately if you are working out for one hour.
  • Be flexible with your workout goals and cut back if you do not feel comfortable.
  • Skip your workout if you are nauseous, overly tired, or feel weak.

More on: Postpartum

excerpted from:

From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.

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