New Pregnancy Exercise Research

Researchers from Johns Hopkins are finally looking into how much exercise is ok for a pregnant woman and her fetus.

Yes, there has been some research done in the past, noteably by Dr James Clapp (He wrote the book, Exercising Through Your Pregnancy), but it hasn't been enough to change the age-old exercise recommendations from our government agencies.

Plus, many women are frustrated because they are not given consistent recommendations from their health care providers - some doctors say it's ok to consider exercising as long as there are no complications, where others tell women to stop exercising (which is ridiculous if you ask me - exercise is the one thing that can keep a woman's spirts high and prevent her from gaining excessive weight).

Dr Andrew J Satin and colleagues are currently investigating endurance exercise and it's effects on mommies and their unborn babies.

60 women are being looked at, which include regular runners and sedentary individuals. Regular runners are allowed to run until their reach their peak capacity, but are asked to not linger there long. During the run, several measurements are taken which include placental blood flow and amniotic fluid levels. The fetuses are also examined by ultrasound before and after the treadmill work.

This information will be used to help women understand what effect exercise might be having on their babies and if it's really beneficial or not.

Right now, researchers agree that regular exercise while pregnant is beneficial for preventing gestational diabetes and hypertension, but the verdict is still out on how hard and how much.

The current recommendations (like those from ACSM) are still filled with notes of caution, which makes many women scared to do anything.

You can read more about this research (which does not have full data collection yet) here in this news report:

Baltimore Sun Pregnancy Exercise

One quote I found facinating from this report was this:

"[During exercise] ...the fetuses are not "flipping and flopping". In fact, the entire uterus is moving with the exercise motion, buoying the fetus."

l remember when I was exercising quite hard during my pregnancy (I was doing box jumps at 7 months pregnant) and even my husband was saying that the baby was flopping around in me... guess he was wrong (I still kept doing them because I felt fine).

Future research at Johns Hopkins will focus on weight lifting - which I find very facinating.


In my experience, as many of you may have read in my previous blogs like here, here and here, I worked out like an animal during my pregnancies, doing a lot of kettlebell work, barbell work and intense Tabatas and intervals. I only ever pushed myself to a point where I still felt ok - never until I wanted to puke (yes, sometimes I felt dizzy, but I backed off when I got there).

I feel that my fit pregnancy was one of the major reasons that I didn't have back pain, water retention or any other major issues (or even minor issues) at all. In fact, I had a great delivery and currently have a very healthy baby.

I hope this research shows doctors and women that exercising to the point where YOU feel fine and where YOU feel good about what you're doing is not harmful to you or your baby. I think most women know what's good and what's not good - if you can't listen to your body and back off when it says enough is enough, then you might need someone to tell you that you're going too far. But, if you feel good and are not having any other issues (bleeding, pain), then go for it.

Happy Pregnancies!



Posted Nov 18, 2010 by Cassandra Forsythe.

Comments for This Entry

GravatarElwing11:58AM on November 18, 2010

At 30 weeks pregnant, I'm still doing almost as much as I was before becoming pregnant. Granted, it's not near as much as you do on a regular basis, but it's a bit more than the recommended 30 minutes per day aerobic exercise.
My midwives gave me the "rules" of: If I did it before I became pregnant, I could keep doing it. If I ever became uncomfortable, stop and re-assess what I was doing. The only thing they asked me to modify was to restrict my weight when lifting to reduce abdominal pressure from straining. If any bleeding or pain occurred, I was to call them.

Really, the only modifications I've made to my normal routine have been common sense. Some days I just don't have the energy to do it completely, so I reduce the time I spend. Some days are better than others. I just use common sense - if it doesn't feel right, I don't do it (I'm looking at you crunches..)

GravatarAnonymouse Mouse04:24PM on November 18, 2010

What about exercise during IVF? Women getting IVF are supposed to not do anything too intensive --- walking and swimming are okay, but because their ovaries are enlarged, they're told that they have a small risk of twisting an ovary if they run or lift heavy. Do you think that the same thing applies here? Or is IVF too unusual?

GravatarCassandra07:56PM on November 18, 2010

Hey AM - I'm not sure.... but, perhaps the researchers at Johns Hopkins are looking at this? We'll learn soon.

GravatarEmily10:08AM on November 23, 2010

What about women who are taking fertility medication? Do you have an opinion on whether or not beginning an exercise program may or may not affect their ability to get pregnant?

My sister recently had her second baby. She looks great and the baby is healthy and happy. Do you have any suggestions for her once she is ready to get back into the gym and into an exercise routine? She walked during her pregnancy and was on a very simple strength routine - squats, push ups, lunges, etc.Towards the end of her pregnancy, she was pretty big and fatigued easily. Her delivery was picture perfect. She is giving herself until January . How should she approach her program post-baby?


GravatarMiranda09:06AM on December 08, 2010

Hi Cassandra! Thanks SOOOO much for your pregnancy related posts. I was near the end of stage 1 in NROLFW when I found out I was pregnant in July. I found the program to be a little too intense for pregnancy so I decided to shelve the book until April when my baby arrives.

But I am still doing weight training/cardio classes 2x per week, cycling/spinning 2x per week, lots of walks and yoga and I still feel great at 23 weeks now. I've found that my body really let me know when and at what point I needed to back off on the exercise, so I am comfortable with all my routines at just a somewhat decreased intensity and duration as before. I have hardly any of the complaints some of the other women in my online 'birth club' (like the swelling, water retention, aches and pains, etc,) SO FAR, and I attribute that to keeping active and also watching my diet.

I'm hoping that keeping up my strength and stamina will also help me in the delivery room to achieve an unmedicated birth. Also, maybe you could comment on ab work that is appropriate for later in pregnancy? I have read so much conflicting information. Thanks!

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