Maximum heart rate is the highest heart rate you reach during exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, the maximum pregnancy heart rate recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists was once 140 beats per minute. As of November 2010, however, ACOG does not outline specific heart-rate numbers. Instead, ACOG endorses using the talk test to determine an appropriate heart rate — if you can talk normally during exercise, you are at an appropriate heart rate.
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Pregnancy Target Heart Rate Ranges
For a more precise heart-rate measurement, the Fit Pregnancy website recommends pregnant women use target heart ranges. Unfit, sedentary or overweight women ages 20 to 29 should aim for 129 to 144 beats per minute; those 30 to 39 should stay within 128 to 144. Active women ages 20 to 29 should aim for 132 to 152 BPM; those 30 to 39, 129 to 148 BPM. A range of 145 to 160 BPM is recommended for fit women ages 20 to 29, and 140 to 156 for ages 30 to 39.
Measuring Your Heart Rate
Measuring your heart rate, or pulse, may help you evaluate your exercise program, the Cleveland Clinic explains. To measure your pulse, place the index and middle fingers of one hand near the base of the thumb on the palm side of the opposite hand. You should feel a light throbbing. This is your pulse. Using a clock or watch with a second hand, count the number of beats you feel for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by 6 to calculate your heart rate.
Benefits of Pregnancy Exercise
Exercise during pregnancy can provide benefits such as increased energy, improved mood and posture, better sleep and increased muscle tone. Other benefits include improved ability to cope with labor pains, increased strength and endurance, reduction of backaches, constipation and bloating. Exercise may help the prevention or treatment of gestational diabetes, ACOG notes.
Pregnant women should begin each workout with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up, ACOG recommends. They should also stretch to help prevent muscle soreness and stiffness. At the conclusion of the workout, a cool-down period of similar length will help return the heart rate to normal. Further, the Mayo Clinic advises pregnant women to pace themselves during exercising to avoid overheating and dehydration.
ACOG advises pregnant women to consult their doctor before beginning any exercise program. A physical examination will help your doctor determine if any medical conditions exist that would prevent you from exercising. According to ACOG, women at risk of preterm labor or those with vaginal bleeding or premature membrane rupture should not participate in exercise during pregnancy.