Most women understand by now that cardiovascular exercise is important during pregnancy and safe if done correctly. Contrary to older beliefs there is no link between cardiovascular exercise and miscarriage. That being said, there is also no real reason to go overboard either. Moderate amounts of cardio, about thirty minutes, most days of the week is sufficient enough to reap these outstanding benefits:
- The more fit you are, the more fit your baby will be. That’s right, doing aerobic training during pregnancy actually gets your baby in shape too. He or she will have greater cardiovascular capacity right from birth! (Awesome, right?)
- If you gain too much weight and don’t exercise or stay fit during your pregnancy you are at high risk of having a baby with extra fat. This is important because leaner babies have less chance of being overweight later in life or developing weight related health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
- Working out during pregnancy won’t reduce the pain of labor (unfortunately) but it will help with endurance for long labors and strength for pushing.
- You will find that exercising and gaining the appropriate amount of weight during pregnancy will make it much easier to lose the weight and get right back into your shape after birth. (Maybe even look better than before!)
So I’ve convinced you to get some cardio in during your pregnancy, but now let’s talk guidelines. Stick to these easy rules and you will be good to go:
- Hydrate. Always have water. If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. So drink up, and drink often.
- If you are working out in the sun, wear sunscreen. Our skin is extra sensitive during pregnancy!
- If you are in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, keep a check on your heart rate. The magic number given by doctors is “140” but that is sort of old school and quite general. To be more specific, your ideal heart rate zone (up until 20 weeks pregnant) is: Under 20yrs old: 140-155bpm; Age 20-29: 135-150bpm; Age 30-39: 130-145bpm. Once you surpass 20 weeks, use the “talk test” or RPE instead. The talk test is simply being able to carry on a conversation during your workout. RPE stands for Ratings of Perceived Exertion. On a scale of 1-20 try to work on a level between 12-14.
- Stay away from exercises that put you at risk of falling (skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, etc.) These may seem obvious, but I’ve seen some pregnant women do some crazy things. Best cardiovascular exercises are: swimming, walking, jogging (if you were a runner prior to being pregnant,) indoor cycling, and cross trainers such as the elliptical.
- Know your limits and when to stop. Dizziness, vaginal bleeding or any gush of fluid, chest pain and shortness of breath, or anything that doesn’t feel right should signal you to stop and rest.
Make your pregnancy healthier by incorporating cardio. It’s good for you and good for the baby!