Cardio Exercise While Pregnant

Are you sure you should be doing this?

I don't think it's good for you.

Oh you should just stick to light stretches, you know? 

These are just some of the annoying "tips" I got from people around me when I was pregnant and worked out. Reality is, that the majority of people are not aware of the actual benefits of working out during pregnancy, not to mention specifically prenatal cardio workouts. Most people are intimidated by it, making pregnant ladies feel guilty when working out with a baby bump and fearing from it. The truth is that cardio workout during pregnancy offers great health benefits, both for mom and for baby. 

Prenatal Dance Workout

So... Why should you do cardio workouts during pregnancy? Here are some great reasons for you:

1. My top favorite reason: because it feels good. And it's not just me saying, it's also supported by science: Cardio workouts release endorphins in your brain, which improve your mood. 

2. It helps with reducing back and hip pain, and generally assisting you with coping better with the changes your body is going through during pregnancy.

3. It increases blood flow, so whenever you feel like your feet are twice as big as they were before, just start moving.

4. It helps with calming down your sympathetic nervous system, or in other words: decreases your stress levels.

5. It increases oxygen delivery to tissues, as blood flow is better like mentioned before.

6. It helps with weight management, and increases potential for gestational diabetes

That being said, being safe and knowing what to do and how far you can push yourself is just as important. Before I continue, please note: Working out during pregnancy if safe for women with a healthy pregnancy. Always consult with your doctor before engaging in any physical activity when pregnant. 

How hard should you be working out? If we want to look scientifically into it, the safest would be to stay between 50%-75% of your heart rate max (definitely avoid getting to 95%-100% of your heart rate max). This measuring technique has a few flaws though:

1. It's hard knowing your exact heart rate during workout unless you wear a heart rate monitor.

2. Blood volume and heart rate are changing during pregnancy, so this won't be accurate.

3. Each woman is different, and comes from a different exercise and physical abilities background, making resting heart different, and therefore inaccuracy in calculating heart rate max and reserves. 

What CAN you do to monitor your cardio workout? Here's a list of aerobic workouts you can do, plus: Use the TALK TEST: The best way to know you are good is by talking while working out. Yup, that's right :) When working out during pregnancy, you should be able to maintain an ongoing conversation without getting out of breath.

If you feel like you need to stop for air in the middle of the workout, this might mean you've gone too far. And this is also the exact method I use with my clients during classes: On my prenatal classes I encourage my moms to have conversations and talk, as this helps me know how hard they are working out (unlike in my regular fitness classes, where I actually prefer my trainees to focus on their doing and give their all, getting to a breathless point ;)).

Other things to pay attention to for a proper prenatal cardio workout:

1. Drink water. Not only during the workout but well before. Our body needs hydration all the time, and needs time to transfer the fluids to our tissues. Therefore drinking is crucial 24/7. we can't expect to drink a minute before we work out and then all will be fine.

2. Make sure to warm up and cool down properly. 

3. Take breaks whenever needed.

4. Listen to your body. At the end of the day - you know better than anyone how you feel today. your body, your decision. Don't let anyone push you into doing more than feels right to you.

Warning signs: If you feel dizzy, short of breath or experience vaginal bleeding or pain of any kind, stop exercising immediately and call your doctor.

Bottom line: If it feels good and the doc is okay with it - go for it. Don't let others feel like they can boss you around. Your body. Your life. Your decision.