Exercising while pregnant: How much is too much?

Exercise is known to have positive effects during pregnancy, especially for those who exercise prior to becoming pregnant. Regular physical activity may help you manage your weight, promote mental wellness, and lower your risk of gestational diabetes. But how much is too much for the little baby growing inside you?

We got this email from a viewer:

Dear Dr. Manny,
I'm just starting my second trimester, and I have been able to keep up with my normal workout and running schedule, but how can I tell if I'm pushing myself too hard? Is there an appropriate level that I should aim to keep my heart rate under?

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of weekly aerobic activity for healthy pregnant women, but you should always check with your OBGYN before you continue your regular exercise regimen.

“Modifications can be made, especially due to the increase in progesterone, which affects joint and ligament laxity— which can increase [the risk of] injuries if [you’re] not careful,” Dr. Jessica Shepard, an OBGYN and director of minimally invasive gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told FoxNews.com.

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According to American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology guidelines, there is no target heart rate for every pregnant woman to follow. However, their recommendations do suggest women partake in moderate-intensity activities wherein there’s enough movement to generate sweat and increase the heart rate. Examples of activities safe for pregnant women include walking, swimming, stationary cycling, and modified yoga or Pilates.

“In patients with stable normal pregnancies free of contraindications to exercise, they can strive for their target heart rate,” Dr. Connie Faro, an OBGYN and Chief of Staff at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas, part of the Hospital Corporation of America, told FoxNews.com.

Faro advises her patients to decrease exercise intensity if symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness or exhaustion occur. She also says moms should listen to their bodies because if they aren’t well oxygenated, neither is their baby.

Lisa Druxman, a fitness expert and founder of FIT4MOM, an exercise program tailored to women at all stages of motherhood, recommends using a talk test or rate of perceived exertion scale (RPE) to keep workouts to a comfortable level for you and your baby.

“For moderate-intensity exercise, ratings of perceived exertion should be 13 to 14, somewhat hard on the 6-20 Borg scale of perceived exertion,” Druxman told FoxNews.com. “Using the talk test is another way to measure exertion. As long as a woman can carry on a conversation while exercising, she is likely not overexerting herself.”

“Exercise should be energy inducing, not energy depleting. Baby can feel what mom feels,” she added. “This is a time to focus on consistency, not competitive exercise.”

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