Heart Rate Zones & Pregnancy

By Joy Holdmeier, CPT

Is there a heart rate zone we should stay within while pregnant? Have you heard you should keep your heart rate below 140?

This used to be the rule…..back in 1985! The guidelines have since changed. Would you think a marathon runner and a sedentary person should workout at the same heart rate? It’s crazy to suggest that all pregnant women work out at the same intensity. We all have different resting heart rates, therefore we all have different target heart rate zones.

New guidelines do not suggest measuring intensity by heart rate at all. Our heart rate and blood volume changes throughout pregnancy, so it’s hard to determine where you should be. Instead the American Council on Exercise suggests using the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale.

How do you use Rate of Perceived Exertion?

This is a scale of 1-10 with 1 being no effort at all (sitting) and 10 being all out effort (barely able breath)! It is suggested to work between 5 and 8. You can also use the talk test. You should be able to carry on a conversation while working out. If you are unable to talk, you are working too hard.

Remember, the rating of your exertion should be completely independent of the pace you think you are walking; it is dependent solely on the feelings caused by the exertion. Increase the pace to a run and add a hill and you could work your way up to a 10 on the scale.[1]

Of course always follow your physician’s guidelines, especially if you are high risk and do what feels good to you. You know your body best!

[1] http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitfacts_display.aspx?itemid=2579