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Women who have been previously active may continue their exercise during the first trimester to a maximum of 30-40 minutes at a frequency of 3-4 x a week as tolerated. Heart rate is less reliable in pregnancy for determining exercise intensity. The modified heart rate target zones, as outlined in the PARmed-X, are recommended for use in measuring exercise intensity in pregnant women. Candian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM) Position Statement – Exercise and Pregnancy
Reasonable goals of aerobic conditioning in pregnancy should be to maintain a good fitness level throughout pregnancy without trying to reach peak fitness or train for an athletic competition. Elite athletes who continue to train during pregnancy require supervision by an obstetric care provider with knowledge of the impact of strenuous exercise on maternal and fetal outcomes. Joint Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada/ Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Clinical Practice Guideline: Exercise in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period.
Elite athletes and pregnancy: Biomechanical changes and adaptations There’s no arguing that pregnancy changes a woman’s body, but if you’re an athlete, it means so much more than that. A recent study has shown that the changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy can affect the way they move after giving birth. Many physiological changes occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy with one of the most significant changes being that of weight gain. This weight gain is obviously necessary in order for the baby to develop properly, however this increase in body mass shifts the body’s centre of gravity, weakens the abdominal muscles and slightly shifts the pelvis. These changes contribute to an increased base of support, a larger foot progression angle, increased pelvic movements and an increased rotation of the pelvis. This is loosely described as a “waddling gait”. Many female elite athletes are choosing to continue training throughout their pregnancies, with good results. Each athlete needs to take into consideration their own unique needs and tailor their training to suit. Some popular exercises for elite athletes who are training while pregnant include: • bungee cords for resistance • zero gravity treadmills • brisk walking • stationary cycling • swimming During the third trimester of pregnancy, babies grow rapidly which increases the pressure on the abdominal muscles. That pressure can cause the rectus abdominis, a paired muscle running vertically down the front of the abdomen, to separate. This separation is called diastasis recti, and it can occur to various degrees above or below the belly button. Because this separation occurs, it is recommended that women avoid traditional sit ups until the body is fully healed. Additionally, ligaments and joints tend to be loose for up to three months post partum, so it’s important to adjust training to minimize the risk of injury. Some suggestions for exercises to restore the strength and stability in the abdominal muscles after pregnancy include planks, squats and bridges. Sources: Gilleard WL. Trunk motion and gait characteristics of pregnant women when walking: report of a longitudinal study with a control group. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. March 2013;13:71. Kardel K. Effects of intense training during and after pregnancy in top-level athletes. Scandinavian Journal Of Medicine & Science In Sports. April 2005;15(2):79-86. Reynolds, Gretchen. How Pregnancy Changes a Women's Body. The New York Times. July 2013. Web.
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