Cardio While Pregnant

Diaries of Cardio Queens Reformed

For an athlete, there is nothing like the feeling of getting that heart rate up and pumping. Not a bad thing, because there are some amazing health benefits to cardio. Amy and I are big cardio lovers, however prioritizing strength during pregnancy is key because hormones and a growing bump leave your body exposed to a lot of instability (muscle weakness). It is also important to continue doing cardio throughout your pregnancy, you may just need to modify what that looks like. A common question we get is, “what should I do on my cardio days?”

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Benefits of cardio during pregnancy

  • Slows and steadies pregnancy weight gain

  • Improves your mood

  • Burns excess calories from any cravings you may have given in to

  • Reduces back and hip pain

  • Increases blood flow response

  • Increases oxygen delivery to tissues

  • Calms down sympathetic nervous system (helps decrease stress level)

Types of cardio during pregnancy

  • Walking

  • Treadmill incline workouts

  • Swimming

  • Elliptical

  • Rowing machine

  • Stationary bike

  • Low to moderate impact aerobics- can do this at home with minimal equipment

  • Running (up until 20ish weeks of pregnancy)

Why can I only run until 20 weeks? Running is a high impact activity. It requires a tremendous amount of strength - core strength, hip strength, lower extremity strength, proper movement of your upper extremities. It is a continuous single leg stance and the faster you are, the more coordination is required. The patterns that are required for running are disturbed during pregnancy due to the growing baby putting pressure on your pelvic floor. Additionally, throughout pregnancy your body is producing a hormone called relaxin that causes your ligaments to relax so that your pelvis is able to open during delivery. This, however, puts you at increased risk for injuries and discomfort while running during pregnancy, leaving us exposed to problems such as pelvic organ prolapse, stress urinary incontinence, pubic symphysis pain, low back pain, hip pain and diastasis recti. If it is difficult for you to slow down and cut running out, we have created a Running Blog to tell you more. Walking is a great alternative for cardio, especially during pregnancy and postpartum because it is lower impact than running.

Safety, first

Regardless of your experience level, all pregnant women should avoid any cardio activity that puts them at risk for a major collision or fall, such as horseback riding, skiing, biking and contact sports.

Intensity!!!

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140 BPM Myth:

Years ago, some experts recommended a heart rate of no more than 140 beats per minute when exercising during pregnancy. Today, however, heart rate limits are not the gold standard. Instead, the talk test is used as a guideline during cardio.

Talk Test:

You should be able to carry on a conversation when exercising while pregnant, meaning that you are able to speak a couple sentences without gasping for air while you are performing cardio.

The image to the right is your perceived rate of exertion. You can use this if you don’t have a heart rate monitor. You should fall somewhere from 4-7- so your level of activity should still be moderate to vigorous but you should still be able to speak.

Don’t just mindlessly jump on a machine or take a walk. Do it with INTENTION!

Interval workouts are the perfect way to get your heart rate up! Interval workouts are when you push hard for a set time, then back it down, then go hard again. Below you can find some examples of interval workouts.

No matter which form of cardio you choose

  • Be sure every workout includes a warmup, cooldown and a few minutes of stretching before and after exercising.

  • Hydrate before, during and after your workout

  • Listen to your body

  • Take breaks if needed

If you feel dizzy, short of breath or experience vaginal bleeding or pain of any kind, stop exercising immediately and call your doctor if the symptoms don’t go away.

Examples of Cardio Workouts

Treadmill Incline Workout 1

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Treadmill Incline Workout 2

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Treadmill Incline Workout 3

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AT HOME CARDIO- CIRCUIT WORKOUT 1

Performing a circuit workout at home can be done without any equipment. The following circuit is good prior to 23 weeks but is not diastasis recti safe. Perform each exercise vigorously for the time stated, rest for 20 seconds, then move on to the next one and repeat the circuit three times through.

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AT HOME CARDIO- CIRCUIT WORKOUT 2

The following circuit is safe for anytime during pregnancy. Perform each exercise vigorously for the time stated, rest for 20 seconds, then move on to the next one and repeat the circuit three times through.

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AT HOME CARDIO- CIRCUIT WORKOUT 3

The following circuit is safe for anytime during pregnancy. Perform each exercise vigorously for one minute, rest for 20 seconds, then move on to the next one and repeat the circuit three times through.

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CIRCLE BAND WORKOUT

You can do a killer workout with bands. They are such a simple way to add more resistance. There are so many different exercises you can do with them! Very easy to get it in a home or while traveling. This circuit is safe for anytime during pregnancy. Perform each exercise for the time stated (or 12-15x), and repeat the circuit 3-4 times through.

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Krystle Howald