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Is High Intensity Exercise Okay During the First Trimester of Pregnancy?

by
author image A. McDougall
A. McDougall is an editor, writer and athlete. McDougall is a marathon coach certified by the North American Academy for Sport Fitness Professionals and an American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer. McDougall has edited and written for several national magazines.
Is High Intensity Exercise Okay During the First Trimester of Pregnancy?
A woman is running down the stairs. Photo Credit Kikovic/iStock/Getty Images

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women get 30 minutes of exercise per day. Doing so offers a plethora of benefits, from improved mood and energy to reduced pain and better posture. However, you need to exercise at the appropriate intensity. Some women may be able to perform high-intensity workouts in the first trimester, but others may need to take it easy from the beginning of pregnancy.

Fit Women

Fit women who are accustomed to training at a high intensity may be able to continue their regimens into pregnancy for some time into pregnancy if given the go-ahead by a physician. This may last through the first trimester and possibly beyond. According to the Hospital for Special Surgery, multiple studies show that active women can exercise at a vigorous intensity without causing harm to themselves or their babies. But not all fit women will be able to perform all exercises throughout the entire pregnancy; after two to three weeks, your physician may recommend modifications to your program.

Unfit Women

If you've been inactive, pregnancy isn't the time to start a high-intensity exercise program. That doesn't mean that you can't exercise, but you should stick to moderate-intensity workouts even in the first trimester. If you're unfit, the Hospital for Special Surgery recommends keeping your heart rate at 60 to 75 percent of your maximum. Exceeding this range may cause a rapid heart rate in your baby, which is an indicator of stress.

Exercises to Avoid

Throughout your pregnancy, you should avoid any exercises that put you at risk of falling. You should also avoid contact sports, even ones with limited contact such as basketball and soccer. Any activities that involve sudden changes in movement or jumping should be avoided due to the possibility of injury; instead, opt for low-impact exercises. During the first trimester, it's safe to perform exercises on your back. However, back exercises should be avoided in the second and third trimesters since the pressure from the weight of your baby may slow the return of blood to your heart.

Keeping It Safe

Always check with your physician to see if your exercise program is safe as soon as you are aware of your pregnancy. The Hospital for Special Surgery notes that perceived exertion is a better indicator of your healthy intensity than your heart rate. For this reason, women tend to reduce the intensity of their exercise as pregnancy progresses. When in doubt, listen to your body. If your exercise feels too intense, it probably is.

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