This is a common question!
How much exercise is too much during my pregnancy?
The FITT (frequency, intensity, time and type) principle still applies during pregnancy.
Australian and US guidelines for exercise during pregnancy is 30 minutes a day on most days if not every day.
This would be a balance of resistance and cardiovascular training.
For the pregnant mum this is what she needs to know.
- Frequency – most days if not all
- Intensity – mild to moderate
- Time – 30 minutes
- Type – cardio and weights
Mums need to consider the nourishment that will feed the growing baby first. Burning extra calories or doing extra weights sessions is totally unnecessary.
In my book, Pregnant Fit and Fabulous, I have added other elements for the pregnant mum, so that she can benefit from releasing spasms and also keep a stable pelvis and strong pelvic floor.
Performing foam roller releases on a few spots eases tight muscles and also helps with stability and mobility for the pregnant mum.
What would classify as too much exercise anyway?
If we look at the first trimester, this is a very delicate time for the expectant mum. First of all, the embryo development happens very quickly. She may not even know she is pregnant in the first 4 weeks, as she has not missed a period yet.
So normal exercise during this time is quite acceptable.
Where the modification comes in is from 6 weeks onwards or as soon as the mum finds out she has missed a period.
We always hear that the pregnant woman should not overheat during her first trimester and keep their heart rate around the 140 beats per minute.
Some women take this on board and some ignore it.
I feel if every mum understood why this is important, they will definitely pay attention to modifying their training and not over heat during their first trimester.
The baby’s organs are formed between week 8 and 13. Keeping the mum’s heart rate low ensures that the organs form properly and the baby’s heart rate stays within normal range.
The mum may even feel irritable and tired. She may need more therapeutic workouts instead of adrenalin pumping workouts.
Hormone relaxin is at its highest during the first trimester and then towards the end of third trimester.
Ligaments get to loosen up, creating unstable joints hence doing too much exercise in the first trimester is not advised.
Avoid high intensity cardio classes, cross fit, or doing 2-3 gym glasses a day.
Second trimester is where most women feel great and happy to exercise.
The size of her tummy is not big and she feels that adding more exercise will help her burn more calories and avoid weight gain.
I have seen mums come into the gym, do a cardio class in the morning and then they come back and do a heavy weights session in the afternoon or evening.
I can totally understand if you are an athlete and need to maintain some level of strength, but the average mum needs to keep in mind that her growing baby needs nutrients and calories for growth. Avoid a low birth weight baby by not burning calories in the gym, and allowing them to go to the baby’s growth.
Third trimester women can go to complete extremes. While some choose to take an easier approach and go for walks, others maintain their heavy resistance training.
Examples such as Cross Fit is high intensity resistance training, and it goes totally against the guidelines for health and fitness for the pregnant mum. Hence I would highly discourage a mum from participating.
Great options would be machine-based exercises where she can still have medium resistance and high repetitions. This will maintain her strength and keep a toned body while still burning calories without overdoing it.
The critical point here is that focus should be on pelvic floor and core strength.
When women lift heavy weights during pregnancy, they often don’t engage the pelvic floor correctly. Using global muscles such as legs, chest, back and arms “fakes” the proper contraction of the pelvic floor.
Always check in with your health care and medical provider of appropriate exercise for you and the health of your baby.