Exercise during your pregnancy is good for you and good for your baby

Research continues to mount suggesting the many benefits exercise provides to pregnant women and their developing babies.  In fact, recommendations have shifted in the recent years from exercise is “safe” during pregnancy, to exercises is “highly recommended” during pregnancy.   New guidelines encourage pregnant woman exercise on “most if not all” days of the week. (read all of ACOG’s guidelines here)

Fit women have;

  • Shorter, less complicated labors
  • Faster recoveries
  • Decrease need for medical intervention
  • Increase in pain tolerance

And the benefits do not stop with mom, babies born to these exercising women;

  • Have lower body fat
  • Are better self-soothers
  • Have higher general intelligence scores by age 5!

More and more women are continuing to exercise, but there are still many myths and concerns out there about what is safe and appropriate and what is not.

In my many years of working with pregnant woman as a personal trainer and prenatal fitness expert, 4 questions come up over and over again.

4 Top Prenatal Fitness Questions

  1.     Can I get my heart rate over 140bpm
  2.     Can I do ab work while I am pregnant?
  3.     I woke up last night on my back, should I be worried?
  4.     My joints feel loosey-goosey, should I avoid working out?

In this 4-part series on prenatal fitness, I’ll answer these questions.  Tune in each day for the next topic.  Have more questions?  Leave them in the comment section and I’ll answer those too!

Today’s Topic:

Can I get my heart rate over 140bpm?


Many people have heard 140 beats per minute is the upper heart rate level for pregnant woman. The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (who sets the guidelines for exercise during pregnancy) removed the 140 limit from their recommendations in 1994!

The 140 bpm guideline is still commonly suggested to pregnant women; by family members, friends and even doctors.  (In fact a recent study reviled that although most doctors are now encouraging exercise, as many as 60% were not aware of the 1994 update to the heart rate guidelines!)

Research has realized that heart rates vary wildly from person to person and that no one number can be appropriate for everyone.  The new ACOG guidelines suggest a pregnant woman work out at a heart rate that is safe and appropriate for her.

A great option for monitoring intensity during exercise is to use the rate of perceived exertion scale.  On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is sitting still and 10 is all out exertion, pregnant women should find a comfortable intensity in the 5-8 range.

If you are a die-hard heart rate monitor fan, researcher Dr. Michelle Mottola dug a little deeper and suggests these guidelines for pregnant exercisers.

Fitness Level                        Age:20-29                        30-39

More Fit                        145-160bpm                        140-156bpm

Less Fit                         129-144bpm                        128-144bpm


**Heart rates vary from person to person and each exerciser should, of course, listen to their own bodies and only use the following table as a guideline for exercise.**


My personal recommendation to my clients is they should work at a level at which they can continue to talk, but not sing (if you can belt out show tunes, you can step up the intensity a bit!).

I also want my clients to be able to recover quickly.  If you stop your cardio work and it takes you more than a few minutes for your heart rate to slow down, then you may be overdoing it.

So get out there and exercise, its good for you, its good for your baby.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on another hot topic…abdominal training during pregnancy!