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Help! I am pregnant but still want to exercise

By Angela Jameson on 27 August 2020

Here are some guidelines to help you continue doing just that….

You have just found out that you are pregnant and love training hard. There has been loads of research to say keeping active in your pregnancy is very beneficial to mum and baby. Barring any complications and contraindications you should continue to exercise for best health and outcomes.

But how hard should you be training? More specifically should you be exercising at a High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) or keeping it at a low to moderate level for all workouts?

Risks Vs Benefits

We have to consider the risks vs benefits and always in pregnancy the benefits must outweigh the risks. So, there is no need to stop training and I think you can train successfully and safely at higher intensity but this must be planned and programmed into your training not done on a whim at the end of your training because you used to do that. All this needs to be planned and done with safety in mind.

So, how do we do that?

  1. Heart rate 

Is there a specific heart rate you should not exceed during exercise whilst pregnant? No, there are no hard and fast heart rate guidelines as there once was (back in the day there was a guideline of keeping 140bpm, but this was obsolete in the 1980’s) Whilst you can track your heart rate throughout your workout in pregnancy out of interest, you don’t need to worry about keeping it at 140bpm if you feel comfortable raising it above this.

  1. Rate of Perceived Exertion

RPE is a better means of monitoring your exercise intensity in pregnancy. A rough guide is 1 = lying on a couch and 10 = sweating profusely, can’t talk, completely out of breath. So you can work at a challenging rate of ‘somewhat hard to hard’ level. You may not want to workout at ‘very hard to very very hard.’ You should feel a bit breathless but can speak and feel your heart pumping and breathing rate increased. Please note that during pregnancy you will also feel more breathless on exertion, this is normal so this rate is relative to how you are feeling now not what you used to do when not pregnant.

  1. Body Temperature and Hydration

Body temperature is something you will want to be aware of during higher intensity exercise. There is a concern that high body temperatures could cause birth defects especially in first trimester. It is recommended to keep your body temperature under 38 degrees Celsius. It is recommended to wear layers when exercising so you can take a layer off if you get too hot. Even find a spot near the air conditioning to help keep you cooler if needed. Keeping well hydrated during exercise is even more important in pregnancy. You should be looking to take in 500ml-1Litre during your workout.

  1. High Impact and Plyometric Exercise Caution

This should be avoided in pregnancy due to the downward pressure on your pelvic floor from the increasing size and weight of the uterus, placenta, foetus and normal weight gain of pregnancy can be difficult enough for the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus and rectum) to endure.

We need to also consider the release of Relaxin at around 24-27 weeks. This is a hormone that helps to make the soft tissues of our body more lax to help with labour and delivery. Running, Burpees and Jump Squats will only make this downward pressure worse.

Good news though, this state is only temporary and for now you and baby are what’s most important so don’t panic, there are plenty of other exercise alternatives you can do to keep healthy and active during your pregnancy.

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