With my previous two pregnancies I’ve always been able to work out up until about week 32. With my first child I ran a half marathon (4 months, 1:50) and with my second, I rode in a 48 mile bike race (Finish time unknown). Both children were born healthy and both were carried full term. Luckily, I have low-risk pregnancies so I am able to do that. Furthermore, research has shown that exercising while pregnant has excellent health benefits for you and your baby. Here are 7 rules to help you keep yourself fit and your baby safe while working out.
1. Always check with your doctor. Be sure to check with your gynecologist prior to starting an exercise program.. Each pregnancy is different, and each baby positions itself differently in your body. Be sure that working out is safe for you.
2. Watch your intensity. My doctor suggests keeping your heart rate below 160. There was a study performed on sheep in which they monitored the mothers heart rate, as well as that of the unborn baby sheep. Once the mother’s heart rate hit 160 the mother sheep started pumping blood to her own muscles instead of to her womb. Thus, he suggests keeping it below 160 while pregnant. My personal favorite monitor is THIS ONE that connects right to your smart phone.
WebMD, states that there is not one target heart rate that you should seek for. They state that there has not been a complete study on humans to prove that there is an ideal heart rate. I agree with their statement as I think that each person’s heart rate will differ depending on previous fitness (to pregnancy), and their max heart rate. Despite the lack of human research and WebMd, I play on the safe side and stay below 160.
3. Avoid contact sports. Just as a car accident can injure your unborn child, so can a hit during exercise. Avoid sports that could cause injury such as soccer, football, basketball, water skiing or any other sport in which you could crash or get hit by another person or object.
4. Warm Up and Cool Down. When you are pregnant your body releases a substance called relaxin to your joints. This allows your joints, namely your hips, to spread to accommodate your baby as well as prepare you for labor. Unfortunately, this puts you at a higher risk for sprains or strains while working out. On Tuesday, I rolled my ankle on a tiny hole that would have usually left me without any injury. Unfortunately, I’ve had to nurse it for the last couple of days. A good warm up and cool down can save you from unexpected grief.
5. Hydrate. Staying hydrated does much more than help you feel well while you are pregnant. Becoming DE-hydrated can cause contractions to start. While there is no golden number of ounces to drink while working out when pregnant. One guideline suggests drinking at least 8 ounces prior to working out, and 1 cup per 20 minutes of exercise.
6. Eat Up. On average, doctors suggest eating 300 more calories per day while pregnant. Naturally, working out will burn up those calories quickly. Be sure to eat the right amount of calories to gain the weight that your baby needs. Pregnancy is not the time to be losing weight.
7. Stay Consistent. Consistency is always your friend. Being consistent and creating habits make it easier to get out and move as well as keeps your spirits up. Just remember, the better shape you are in for your labor, the more strength you will have for labor as well as for your recovery.