What are the differences between a prenatal workout plan and your current exercise routine? If you’re like me, your concerns may have shifted from what’s most effective to what’s most safe once you became pregnant. Your body undergoes massive changes during pregnancy and certain precautions need to be taken. However, professionals from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), CDC, and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) agree that prenatal exercise is beneficial for mom and baby in a healthy pregnancy free of medical risks and contraindications.
I continued to exercise through all three of my pregnancies with great benefits. Exercise improved my energy level, helped control weight gain, and I felt much better physically and mentally. If you’re unconvinced, or need some motivation, check out 7 Benefits of Prenatal Exercise.
Here are 3 steps to creating a prenatal workout plan:
1. Get Physician Clearance Before Exercising
From novice to athlete, it’s always recommended you clear your exercise program with your physician. A competitive athlete continuing to train throughout pregnancy should be closely monitored by her personal physician.
Although most will encourage you to stay active and continue your current routine, you may need extra guidance if you weren’t regularly working out pre-pregnancy, and you want to be aware of any existing contraindications or medical issues that may impact your prenatal exercise plan.
2. Evaluate Your Current Exercise Routine and Physical Condition
Exercise consistency is important during pregnancy – more than ever – to avoid injury. It’s not the time to jump from the couch into a marathon training plan. Evaluate your current/pre-pregnancy workout habits:
- Do you currently exercise consistently? In the absence of any complications, you can continue your current routine, making modifications as pregnancy progresses.
- Have you been exercising sporadically, or not at all? Follow your physician’s guidance.
Some will recommend avoiding starting an exercise program in the 1st or 3rd trimesters, although many will agree that low intensity walking or swimming is ok. It’s key to start slowly – short exercise sessions at a low intensity – and monitor carefully.
3. Outline Your Prenatal Exercise Plan
We can gain strength, endurance and flexibility through prenatal exercise, but the main goal is for mom and baby to be healthy. Focus on being consistent and not overdoing the frequency, intensity, or duration of your prenatal workouts.
If you need help being more consistent in your workout routine, check out this post and think through the who, what, when, where, and how of your workout plan.
Prenatal FITT Exercise Prescription
- Frequency: Most, if not all, days of the week. Aim for a minimum of 3 days per week.
- Intensity: Use a Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale rather than heart rate staying within an 11-13 (light to somewhat hard range)
- Time: 30 minutes or more (up to 60 minutes)
- Type: Low or non-impact activities are best as pregnancy progresses. You can continue previous activities while making modifications and avoiding any activities that could result in trauma or injury.
As a general rule: stay within a comfortable intensity and range of motion. Stay cool, well hydrated, and take breaks as necessary.
Cardio, Strength and Flexibility Activities For Prenatal Workouts
- Cardio 3-5x a week: Non-impact or low impact activities such as walking, swimming, or elliptical trainers. Avoid activities that could result in abdominal trauma or have sudden, abrupt movement changes that could result in falling or stress joints.
- Strength Training 2-3 days a week: Strength training exercises for all major muscle groups using body weight, weight machines, or handheld weights. Use moderate weight, controlled movements within a comfortable range of motion, and breathe regularly (do not hold your breath).
- Flexibility 3-7 days a week: Static stretches for all major muscle groups within a comfortable range of motion – hold at the point of stretch but not discomfort. Pregnancy increases the laxity of joints, so avoid overstretching or moving beyond a normal range of motion. Yoga or Pilates should be modified or prenatal specific.
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Please share below – what is/was your prenatal workout plan?