Can you workout while pregnant? Two experts breakdown the science


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  • Two qualified professionals share their take.

    If you’re Googling, can you workout while pregnant, the likelihood is you’re a. pregnant and b. wondering whether it’s true that you should limit your gym classes or daily walks while you’re carrying your child.

    There’s still a whole world of misconception when it comes to pregnancy and working out – so much so that many women forgo exercise altogether for the duration of their pregnancy to “be on the safe side”.

    That said, do you know whether working out while pregnant is beneficial or detrimental? And if you should be moving while carrying your little one, how often?

    Keep scrolling as Kristen Holmes, VP of Performance Science at WHOOP, and Dr. Shon Rowan of West Virginia University, share their expert take. Don’t miss our guides to postpartum exercise, perinatal mental health, and one PT’s go-to postpartum workout, while you’re here.

    You asked, we answered: can you workout while pregnant? 

    Short answer: yes, and the misconception that you shouldn’t – like, at all – is actually rather harmful.

    The NHS website officially advises that you should stick to your regular amount of daily exercise – that is, walking, running, yoga and so on – for “as long as you feel comfortable.”

    They also go on to emphasise the main point that exercise is not dangerous for your baby – far from it. “There is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour,” the website reads.

    Their main advice? Opt for less strenuous exercise where possible – if you can’t talk, you’re likely working out too hard – and talk to your maternity team. They will be able to help guide you through a more personalised pregnancy workout plan that’s tailored to you and your needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here.

    One new groundbreaking study on the matter from personalised fitness and health wearable WHOOP agrees, concluding that exercising throughout pregnancy actually significantly improved women’s health – perhaps even more so than normal.

    Rolling your eyes and thinking, “Yeah right, when am I meant to find time to workout?”. Don’t worry – every woman’s pregnancy will be different, and for many, even the thought of working out might make you nauseous. But the new findings showed that from a physiological perspective, pregnancy is actually a prime time to actively improve your fitness and help your body with carrying a baby, labour, breastfeeding, and so on.

    Conducted over two years in partnership with West Virginia University (WVU), the research is the largest study of female reproductive physiology ever conducted.

    So what did they conclude? That pregnant women who were able to be more active had consistently improved resting heart rate and heart rate variability, particularly during the first few trimesters of pregnancy but also during the post-pregnancy recovery period.

    Having an improved resting heart rate and heart rate variability may sound dull, but actually means that your heart is looking healthier and that your body is capable of both adapting to certain environments and performing at its best. A high resting heart rate = possible indicator of underlying health conditions.

    While not every woman will feel the need or be able to work out during pregnancy and it’s certainly not a time to pressure yourself, the stats aim to “help women understand their bodies better and make more insightful decisions on their training and life choices,” share the brand.

    Can you workout while pregnant? A woman expecting a baby

    According to Kristen Holmes, VP of Performance Science at WHOOP, this study is noteworthy as all previous studies examining exercise in pregnancy rely on retrospective data collected postpartum. “What is unique about Dr. Rowan’s design is the 24/7 continuous physiological measurement,” she explains. “As a result, were able to collect an unprecedented amount of physiological data on pregnant women.”

    Similarly, Dr. Shon Rowan adds: “With continuous monitoring, we were able to detect a reversal of HRV and RHR that has not previously been described.”

    Do note here: the results are currently in peer review and are therefore preliminary. That said, the point remains that being put off working out while pregnant is still all too common when regular exercise can be good for both Mum and baby.

    Ultimately, you should work out what works for you and your body during pregnancy, move if you fancy it, and be less active if that’s what your body and baby need, too.



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