How Much Should You Exercise When Pregnant?

Researchers at John’s Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore are getting dozens of pregnant women– from the sporty to the not-so-sporty– onto treadmills in an attempt to better understand how we can personalize fitness guidelines for a range of pregnant women.

Given the huge diversity of body types and baseline activity levels, universal guidelines don’t make much sense.

Dr. Linda Szymanski, a fellow in maternal fetal medicine who is helping conduct the research, said pregnant women are being confused by contradictory advice and data: “[Pregnant] women express frustration because a number of doctors give different advice. Some still tell them not to exercise, especially if they haven’t been exercising.”

“We do know that not only can exercise be done, it should be done,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew J. Satin. “But the level of fitness should impact the individual’s prescription.”

It used to be that women were told not to exercise. Now women are being told to work out during pregnancy– the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends exercising 30 minutes a day for most if not all days of the week.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest at least 2 1/2 hours a week of “moderate-intensity aerobic activity” for healthy pregnant and postpartum women.

I am always in favor of “personalized” goals, fitness or otherwise. There are some universal experiences when it comes to pregnancy but a whole lot of it is highly individual. One-size-fits-all advice is sometimes necessary but not ideal. We know that elite athletes can continue with high levels of sport when pregnant, but we also know that for someone who never works out, a sudden increase in heart-rate and physical strain is not healthy. The researchers note that a lot of what they expect to learn is “common sense.”

photo: Ernst Vikne/Flickr

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