Exercise Guidelines

Current exercise recommendations for average adult include:

  1. Warm up:  Moderate warm up 5-7 minutes
  2.  Cardiovascular conditioning:  At least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity,
  3. Muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2-3 days a week on non-consecutive days
  4. Cool-Down 5-10 minutes

How does this differ for pregnant women and why?

1.  Warm up time needs to be longer.  (10-12 minutes)

  • Pregnant women tend to have less synovial fluid in their joints.  A longer warm up allows for more time to warm up joints.
  • Hip flexors and the lower back are very tight during pregnancy.  An adequate warm up decreases the chance for strain and injury.
  • Slowly warming of the lower legs and feet help gradually increase circulation and decrease swelling in the lower extremities

2.  Cardiovascular Conditioning:  Research has shown cardio exercise to be the most important in extending benefits during pregnancy.

  • Frequency: 3-5 times a week using the “Rest/Activity Cycling” which means mom should have one hour of quiet time for each hour of planned exercise.
  • ACOG no longer recommends a maximal heart rate of 140 beats per minute.  Instead,   Borgs’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and the “Talk Test” are recommended.
  • ACOG no longer recommends 15-20 minutes max duration for everyone! The duration is individualized according to prior fitness level, stage of pregnancy, etc.  General recommendations are for 20+ minutes to have full cardiovascular benefits. During early pregnancy, cardio sessions should be limited to 30 minutes.
  • Most importantly, moms are encouraged to  listen to their body.

3.  Maintaining or increasing muscular strength and endurance is an important goal for the pregnant exerciser.  Strengthening muscles around “loosened” joints prevents injury, relieves discomfort from postural changes and strengthens mom for the demands of “mothering”   (carrying the baby, car seats, diaper bags, etc.)

  • Frequency:  2-3 times per week for each muscle group on non-consecutive days. (same as regular recommendations)
  • Avoid barbell exercises.  Many of these exercises place joints in a compromised position considering the laxity of ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
  • Avoid laying on the belly and on the back, especially after week 12.
  • Over stretching can cause permanent strain on the ligaments and fascia.

 Caution:  Talk to your physician/caregiver.

  • History of sedentary lifestyle

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  • Intrauterine growth retardation
  • Poorly controlled hypertension
  • Poorly controlled seizure disorder
  • Poorly controlled insulin-dependant
  • diabetes
  • Severe anemia
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Maternal cardiac arrhythmia
  • Poorly controlled thyroid disease
  • Extremely overweight (morbid obesity)
  • Extremely underweight (BMI  12)
  • Orthopedic limitations
  • Heavy smoker

Absolutes: No exercising

  • Hemodynamically significant heart disease
  • Restrictive lung disease
  • Multiple gestation with risk for preterm labor
  • Persistent second or third trimester bleeding
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks of gestation
  • Premature labor during the current pregnancy
  • Rupture of membranes
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension

(Adapted fromACOG Committee Opinion 267,2002)

Information provided with permission by Healthy Mom’s®.