Pregnancy and Heart Rate - My Personal
ObservationsBy Christy Dafter - for
I started running when I was fourteen, so I was
not new to running when I became pregnant for the second time at thirty three.
With my first pregnancy at twenty-three and just finishing a collegiate running
program, I was burned out from running both mentally and physically and decided
to walk for my form of exercise. Plus, I had always heard that it was dangerous
for a pregnant woman to let her heart rate get too high during exercise. I had
no way to monitor my heart rate then except to stop and take my pulse, and that
just was not convenient, or accurate, for that matter. I figured I would walk
at a leisurely pace and that should be okay. Now, looking back, I wish that I
had had a heart rate monitor then. It would have made exercising a lot easier
and would have made me feel much more comfortable being able to constantly
monitor my heart rate while exercising.
During and after my second pregnancy, I was
determined to stay in shape and then to get back into shape as quickly as
possible afterwards. Once again, I was worried about whether I was overdoing it
and getting my heart rate up too high. I read numerous articles on the subject
and was told by my obstetrician to keep my heart rate fairly low with no high
intensity. The prevailing advice was to not let your heart rate go above 140
beats per minute when working out. That is when I knew that my Polar heart rate
monitor would be an invaluable tool to be able to check my heart rate at all
times and play it safe.
I soon found out, though, that keeping my heart
rate at 140 bpm (beats per minute) or below would mean jogging so slowly that a
fairly fast walker could keep up with me, and it was just not any fun. Plus, I
began wondering about this 140 bpm rule of thumb. How could this apply to
everyone? Women come in different sizes, shapes, ages, and levels of fitness.
How could this number work for everyone? I read many articles about women
running throughout their entire pregnancies, some of them even running
marathons. They all had healthy babies but said they ran comfortably. I believe
"comfortably" is the proper rule of thumb rather than a specific number.
decided I would find what my comfortable heart rate zone would be. For me, it
was between 150 and 160 bpm. I could still carry on a conversation and did not
feel overly fatigued or exhausted during or after my runs. I chose to not run
high mileage or tackle a marathon while pregnant. I ran 3-5 miles per day about
five days per week. I did great with this. I always wore my heart rate monitor
and kept my heart rate within my comfortable range. It made me feel safe and
secure, and knew I was doing something healthy for my baby. I was getting a
workout, but not overdoing it.
About half way into my
pregnancy my belly and weight became too much for me to enjoy running anymore,
so I decided to start walking with my heart rate monitor. I would walk fast
enough to get my heart rate to between 130 and 140 bpm. If I walked up a hill I
could even get it up to 150. Some women choose to run throughout their entire
pregnancy, and that is great. For me, it just was not fun anymore and I run
because it should be enjoyable. I really enjoyed the walking and I am sure my
joints did also.
What I discovered is that there
is no one magic number that fits all women for a safe maximum heart rate while
working out when pregnant. There are many numbers and one of them will be just
right for each individual. You have to get out there and experiment to find out
what your special heart rate number is. The best way to do this is with a Polar
heart rate monitor. find it impossible to do it the old fashioned way -
stopping and counting your heartbeat for ten seconds and multiplying by six.
You would have to stop frequently and it is not accurate like a heart rate
monitor is because every time that you stop and then try to get an accurate
pulse, your heart rate has already fallen. A heart rate monitor displays your
heart rate continuously so that you know your heart rate for the entire
workout. Mine even tells me what my average heart rate is for the entire
workout, which gives you more peace of mind.
So, all of you pregnant women
who want to continue exercising, whether it be running, walking, cycling,
swimming, aerobics or whatever else, strap on a heart rate monitor and workout
at a comfortable pace. You should never get out of breath or feel exhausted.
Find your comfortable zone and stick with it. Your zone will probably change as
you get further along in your pregnancy. And never, ever engage in any form of
physical activity without the express permission of your doctor.
Best of luck, and remember,
keeping yourself healthy also keeps your baby healthy. That is what we all
want, a healthy, beautiful baby!