Trying to conceive: Is aerobic exercise safe while trying to get pregnant?

I'm trying to conceive. Is it safe to do three, 30-minute low-impact aerobic workouts a week.

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

If you are already fit, and exercise regularly, then you should be able to safely continue with your exercise routine. A study at Columbia University School of Public Health found that fit women in healthy, low-risk pregnancies, who exercised at least an hour a day, three days a week, improved their pregnancy outcome and increased the birth weight of their baby by about five percent. Studies also show that women who exercise before and during pregnancy have half the risk of delivering prematurely. They are also able to more easily handle the stress that pregnancy puts on their body, have less excess weight gain, less constipation and do better emotionally and physically than those who don't exercise.

Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists set out guidelines for exercise during pregnancy. The following is a synopsis of those guidelines:

  1. Regular exercise (at least three times per week) is preferable to intermittent activity.
  2. Vigorous exercise should not be performed when mom-to-be is ill, or during hot, humid weather.
  3. Jerky, bouncy motions should be avoided. Exercise on a wooden floor or a tightly carpeted surface.
  4. Because of the relaxation of connective tissue, pregnant women should avoid extreme stretching exercises.
  5. Vigorous exercise should be preceded by a five-minute warm-up, such as slow walking.
  6. Strenuous exercise should be followed by a period of gradually declining activity that includes gentle stretching.
  7. Heart rate should be measured at times of peak activity and probably should not exceed a maximum of 150 beats per minute. (There are reports of pregnant, high-level competitive athletes who approached and even exceeded the recommended maximum heart rate without any apparent harmful effects on the fetus, but consult with your care provider if you have concerns.)
  8. Care should be taken to rise gradually from the floor to avoid an episode of dizziness (from low blood pressure) related to changes in position. Some form of activity involving the legs should be continued for a brief period.
  9. Liquids should be taken liberally before and after exercise to prevent dehydration. If necessary, activity should be interrupted to replenish fluids.
  10. Women who have led sedentary lifestyles should begin with physical activity of very low intensity and advance activity levels very gradually.
  11. Activity should be stopped and a care provider notified if any unusual symptoms appear.
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