Brandon Pollock PhD, ACSM-EP-C
Pregnancy related changes are caused by the release of gestational hormones to allow for appropriate changes to occur in the body to create the best environment for the fetus. Pregnant women with no contraindications to exercise are encouraged to exercise throughout the pregnancy, as exercise provides benefits for both the mother and child. Research has shown that regular exercise during pregnancy may reduce the risk of developing pregnancy related health complications; such as pregnancy-induced hypertension and gestational diabetes mellitus. During pregnancy, exercise can also:
- Improve your energy and mood.
- Reduce or prevent back pain and other pregnancy related discomforts.
- Improve sleep habits.
- Increase muscle strength and stamina and prevent excess weight gain.
Pregnancy has a major impact on the metabolic, cardiovascular, and ventilatory responses women have to exercise. Certain factors can also elicit an adverse fetal response to exercise including blood flow, oxygen delivery, heat dissipation, and glucose availability. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) endorses guidelines regarding exercise in pregnancy set forth by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Joint Committee of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP).
What are the ACSM recommendations for exercise?
The recommended exercise prescription for pregnant women is consistent to the recommendations for the general adult population. Duration of physical activity should be at least 15 minutes per day, gradually increasing to at least 30 minutes per day. According to ACSM, pregnant women should perform 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Aerobic activities should focus on using large muscle groups and dynamic in nature. This could be achieved through activities such as walking, swimming, yoga, and stationary cycling. Light weight resistance training is acceptable as well, however lifting heavy weights should be avoided. Pregnant women should also avoid contact sports and activities that may cause trauma to the mother or fetus.
If you have exercised before pregnancy you can likely continue to work out at the same level while pregnant with the permission of your physician and/or medical healthcare provider. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start slow. A good way to judge your exercise intensity is by using something known as the talk test. You should be able to carry on a conversation while you are exercising. If you are unable to speak comfortably during exercise, you may be pushing it too hard!
Exercise will help you cope with the adverse changes associated with pregnancy, so if you haven’t exercised for a while, use pregnancy as your incentive to begin.
*For examples of other variations/exercises look under Multimedia-VDF Exercise Tips
**Consult with a physician and/or medical healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen
Artal, R., & O’Toole, M. (2003). Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Br J Sports Med, 37(1), 6-12; discussion 12.
Davies, G. A., Wolfe, L. A., Mottola, M. F., MacKinnon, C., Society of, Obstetricians, & gynecologists of Canada, Sogc Clinical Practice Obstetrics Committee. (2003). Joint SOGC/CSEP clinical practice guideline: exercise in pregnancy and the postpartum period. Can J Appl Physiol, 28(3), 330-341.
Narendran, S., Nagarathna, R., Narendran, V., Gunasheela, S., & Nagendra, H. R. R. (2005). Efficacy of yoga on pregnancy outcome. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(2), 237-244. doi: DOI 10.1089/acm.2005.11.237
Pivarnik, J. M., Chambliss, H. O., Clapp, J. F., Dugan, S. A., Hatch, M. C., Lovelady, C. A., . . . Panel, Expert. (2006). Impact of physical activity during pregnancy and postpartum on chronic disease risk. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38(5), 989-1006. doi: DOI 10.1249/01.mss.0000218147.51025.8a
Swain, David P., American College of Sports Medicine., & American College of Sports Medicine. (2014). ACSM’s resource manual for Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (7th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.