Doctors formerly recommend women keep their heart rate under 140 beats per minute during pregnancy. However, over 10 years ago the American College of Obstetrics removed this restriction and today exercising while pregnant is touted for its many benefits.
Women who exercise during pregnancy have improved cardiovascular function, improved strength and improved sense of well-being. Women who exercise also tend to have improved body image and improved psychological health. We spoke with Dr. Robert Stewart, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas for tips on running while pregnant.
Moderate Exercise is Key
The U.S. Department of Health recommends healthy women who become pregnant (non-exercisers and moderate exercisers) should begin or continue moderate intensity aerobic activity during pregnancy, accumulating around 150 minutes a week. That breaks down to about 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. Moderate activity is defined as 40 to 59 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Stick to What You Know
Every woman is different. If you ran or exercised at moderate intensity before becoming pregnant, then you should continue that during pregnancy. If a woman happens to be a competitive athlete and has more strenuous workouts, she could be able to continue these well into pregnancy. If you are thinking of doing more high intensity workouts or continuing a high intensity routine, Dr. Stewart recommends the first thing you should do is contact your physician. Not only can they give you advice on your exercise routine, they will be able to closely monitor you during training.
Stretch and Drink Water
Just like running while not pregnant, it's important to stretch before and after a run and to always do a light warm up. Equipment is also key. Make sure to have the right footwear before going out on a run and don't be afraid to change things up as things move along. The body changes a lot during pregnancy and having the right shoes can make all the difference during and after runs. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water.
Know When to Stop
Your body can change in many different ways during pregnancy. According to Dr. Stewart women experience changes in balance, lung capacity and general fatigue during pregnancy. The most important thing is to listen to your body and be aware when you are pushing yourself too far.
Listen to your doctor, too. Conditions can change during each trimester and those changes may warrant decreasing the amount of exercise depending on your history. If you have a history of preterm labor or a fetal growth restriction your doctor may begin to limit or decrease your activities in the second and third trimesters.
Take it Slow Post-Delivery
According to Dr. Stewart, women can experience the physiological and morphological changes of pregnancy even 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth. Getting back into the full swing of things can take time. You can resume exercise routines as soon as it is physically and medically safe, but the timetable varies among women. Some women can exercise days after giving birth while others require more time. The key is to gradually resume your pre-pregnancy routine because, no matter how far into your pregnancy you exercise, some degree of deconditioning will occur.
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