Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 21, 2017
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No rest for the pregnant

What kinds of exercise are safe for women early in their pregnancies?


The current Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada guidelines state that all women without contraindications should be encouraged to participate in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercise during their pregnancy. Adverse pregnancy or neonatal outcomes are not increased among exercising women. The Physical Activity Readiness Medical Examination for Pregnancy questionnaire (PARmed-X for pregnancy) is an excellent guideline for health screening of pregnant women and also provides useful advice and examples on what types of activities are encouraged and target heart rates for aerobic activity. It’s available on the website of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

Target heart rates for aerobic activity during pregnancy vary by age but in general should be between 130 and 150, with lower targets at the start of a new exercise program and in late pregnancy. Pregnant women should avoid the following situations: isometric exercise or straining while holding their breath, exercising in warm/humid environments, exercising while lying on their back past the 4th month of pregnancy, and activities that involve physical contact or a danger of falling. Suggested physical activities for pregnant women include brisk walking, stationary cycling, cross-country skiing, swimming or aquafit. A warm-up and cool-down period should be included in any exercise regimen.

Amanda Black, MD

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