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Pregnancy Workout Guide

Pregnancy Workout Guide

The following pregnancy workout guide is an excerpt from the latest edition of Pregnancy For Dummies.

No matter what your particular exercise regimen may be, keep in mind the basic rules for working out during pregnancy. The following is a list of things to consider when keeping up activities as your baby grows larger and larger:

  • If you’ve a moderate exercise routine, continue on. If you’ve been pretty sedentary, don’t suddenly plunge into a strenuous program — ease in slowly.
  • Keeping up a regular schedule of moderate activity is better than engaging in infrequent spurts of intense exercise.
  • Avoid overheating, especially during the first six weeks of pregnancy.
  • Avoid exercising flat on your back for long periods of time — doing so may reduce blood flow to your heart.
  • Try not to beat yourself up if you find that pregnancy makes your workout routine harder than you’re accustomed to. Modify your program according to what you can reasonably tolerate. Listen to your body. If weightlifting suddenly hurts your back, lighten up. You may find non-weight bearing exercise like swimming or bicycling easier to perform.
  • Watch how your centre of gravity shifts. Avoid surfing, horseback riding, skiing, or any other sport that can cause injury if you’re out of balance. Also avoid anything that puts you at risk of being hurt in the abdomen, and high-impact, bouncy exercises that can tax your loosening joints.
  • Carry a bottle of water to every exercise session and stay well hydrated.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes an adequate supply of carbohydrates (refer to ‘Choosing the best foods’, earlier in this chapter).
  • Avoid using your heart rate to monitor your exercise program. During pregnancy, your resting heart rate increases and your maximal heat rate decreases so using a target heart rate to guide the intensity of your workout is not recommended. Research shows an easier and safe way to go is to monitor your exertion level using Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale (see Table).

Throughout pregnancy, exercising at moderate intensity is considered safe. On the Borg RPE Scale, moderate intensity is a rating of 12 to 14 — a level that feels somewhat hard (that is, you can still talk while exercising without feeling exceedingly short of breath).

Borg’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale

Rating Description
6 No exertion at all
7 Extremely light
8 Very light
9  
10  
11 Light
12  
13 Somewhat hard
14  
15 Hard (heavy)
16  
17 Very hard
18  
19 Extremely hard
20 Maximal exertion


Source: Borg, 1998

Most experts agree that exercising for three to six days per week for a duration of 30 to 60 minutes per workout keeps you in good shape. How often you can comfortably exercise depends on your fitness level, how your pregnancy is progressing and the intensity and duration of your pre-pregnancy exercise program. During the third trimester no more than three sessions of vigorous exercise per week is recommended.

Stop exercising — and talk to your midwife or doctor — if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Any significant pain
  • Contractions
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath out of proportion to the exercise you’re doing
  • Vaginal bleeding 
Pregnancy For Dummies

This article is an excerpt from Pregnancy For Dummies 3rd Edition (Australian and New Zealand Edition)

Your complete guide to having a healthy, happy pregnancy. This updated and expanded third edition of Pregnancy For Dummies offers mothers-to-be practical advice and expert guidance on every stage of their pregnancy — and beyond!


Understand what's happening with your baby and your body, and be guided through what to expect from labour, birth and becoming a new parent.

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Jane Palmer is a mother, birth activist and midwife in private practice located in Sydney, Australia. With additional qualifications as a childbirth educator and lactation consultant, Jane works to improve pregnancy, birth and parenting options for families.

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