Should Pregnant Women Exercise?

Hmm… that’s a toughy.

Let’s get this straight off the  bat- this is not, under any uncertain terms, meant to be taken as medical advise; just my point of view on the topic.   Further, I’m addressing the state of mind of how we approach fitness during pregnancy and not implying that a woman with a high risk pregnancy should be doing sprint sets at the track.  This is a ‘generally speaking’ post aimed at healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies.

Alright then!   An article published last week in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Bulletin address this sometimes controversial topic.  Controversial in the sense that some docs recommend little to no activity, while others tell their expecting mom clients to go ahead, full stop.

Here are some current findings on the topic from the article:

  • Research conducted over the past 18 years indicates that the woman who laces up her sneakers instead of lying around resting and watching television can expect a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby.
  • How much exercise a pregnant woman can get must factor in what their state of fitness was before they became pregnant. The first physical activity guideline, published by ACOG in 1985, encouraged women to limit vigorous physical activity and keep their exercise heart rates below140 beats per minute. Unfortunately, while hundreds of studies have since shown benefits of physical activity during pregnancy and the guidelines have been subsequently updated many women and healthcare providers cling to this 140 limit. The most recent U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services guidelines for physical activity during pregnancy state that women who are not already active should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, and that those who are habitually more active may continue their normal routines provided they communicate openly with their healthcare provider. 

(Must interject here to point out that the mere fact that anyone needs to be told to get a mere two and a half hours of activity per week is astonishing, and not in a good way.)

  • Current evidence suggests that women who are active either before or during pregnancy have a lower risk of developing gestational diabetes and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy, they are more likely to stay within the recommended weight gain range and, compared to inactive women, active women are less likely to deliver big babies (more than nine pounds) and a few small studies suggest that their children are less likely to be obese at two to five years of age.


Let’s stop using this magical time in a woman’s life as an excuse to gain a ton of weight, keep it packed on for eight years, ‘eat for two’ and not get moving.  So, of course, check with your doctor, make sure you’re listening to your own body and better yet, get fit before you get pregnant in the first place!   You, and your baby will be far better off!

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