There is an abundance of conflicting information about exercising during pregnancy. I’m here to bust the misconceptions and share the facts about prenatal exercise.
Here are the four most common misconceptions I hear from clients regarding prenatal exercise:
- Keep your heart rate UNDER 140bpm while exercising. There ONCE was a guideline–in 1984–from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that stated pregnant women should monitor their heart rate response while exercising. This guideline was revised in 1994.
FACT: There are many variables that will affect an individual’s heart rate—age, fitness level, stage of pregnancy, hydration, resting heart rate, exercise intensity, exercise duration, type of exercise, and good ol’ genetics. CURRENT guidelines state that a pregnant women’s perception of how hard she is working using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale, or talk test is a better index of exercise intensity than heart rate response. If you can still talk while you are exercising, you are exercising at a desired intensity during pregnancy.
- Don’t start a new exercise program during pregnancy.
FACT: If you are experiencing a health pregnancy and your healthcare providers approves, YES you can start a new exercise program even if you’re currently inactive. It doesn’t mean you can now train for a marathon, but you can begin to exercise during pregnancy. ACOG states, “Pregnancy is an ideal time for maintaining or adopting a healthy lifestyle”. Here’s how to get started.
- Don’t do ab exercises during pregnancy. The only truth to this statement is that pregnant women are advised not do CRUNCHES during pregnancy because of the pressure the movement places on the abdominal wall.
FACT: There are endless ways to strengthen abdominal muscles, and core training should be your #1 priority for exercise during pregnancy. Your abdominal muscles play a significant role in your core musculature—along with your diaphragm, pelvic floor, and muscles that support the spine. Together these muscles create your core canister and a strong core is imperative to prepare for labor and delivery.
- Your pregnant body is delicate and you shouldn’t stress your growing baby.
FACT: We now know through mounting research that exercise has many benefits for both mom and baby. ACOG recommends women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength conditioning exercises before, during, and after pregnancy. Regular physical activity during pregnancy improves or maintains physical fitness, helps with weight management, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women, and enhances psychologic well-being.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued physical activity guidelines for healthy pregnant and postpartum women, the guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (ie, equivalent to brisk walking). The guidelines advise that pregnant women who habitually engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (ie, the equivalent of running) or who are highly active “can continue physical activity during pregnancy and the postpartum period, provided that they remain healthy and discuss with their health care provider how and when activity should be adjusted over time”.
Knowledge is power. The bottom line is that you know your body best. Use your best judgement about your activity level during pregnancy. Refer to your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program, or if you have any questions as you progress along.
Active Moms’ Club provides fitness for all stages of motherhood. We offer a wide range of services to meet the unique needs of Chicago mothers: prenatal and postnatal exercise classes, one-on-one personal training, fitness challenges — and most importantly, a community of support from moms just like you!
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