Here’s what maternal health and fitness pros say about the heart rate test—and their advice for approaching exercise when you’re expecting.
How the max heart-rate myth got started
The idea of a 140 bpm pregnancy threshold isn’t so much an urban legend as an outdated measurement for maternal health—it was introduced first in 1985 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Their cardio cap was extremely restrictive and based on the scant amount of research on pregnancy and exercise available at the time, which was mainly drawn from animal studies. Doctors’ main concerns back then were that strenuous exercise could affect the fetal heart rate and birth weight of a baby despite a lack of evidence showing either to be true.
But since then, the science community has found significant proof that working out while pregnant provides some serious health benefits—and the ACOG’s evolved its standing on prenatal exercise several times over the past few decades to adjust to the increasingly active lifestyles of modern women. The committee of women’s health care physicians now recommends expectant moms get in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day (unless advised not to by their doctors). Still, despite being debunked (in 1994) by the very organization that introduced it, the myth of the 140 bpm persists—kind of like the misconception that all fats are bad for you. So is there actually a max heart rate for moms-to-be?
“Heart-rate monitoring is an outdated and old recommendation for assessing how hard your body is working during your workout,” says women’s health expert and OB/GYN Sherry A. Ross, MD. “If you exercised regularly before you got pregnant, then you don’t have to worry about monitoring your heart rate during exercise. Currently there’s no specific recommendation for your heart rate during exercise for pregnant women.”
Measuring max exertion
But just because it’s technically okay to hop in the saddle and tap it back in a spin class like Beyoncé, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
When it comes to how hard you can push yourself during a work out, “each woman is different,” says Malissa Wood, MD, co-director of the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center. “We do recommend that they exercise no harder than the level at which they’re still able to carry on a conversation while exercising.”
This method is known as the “talk test,” and Dr. Wood advises that a healthy heart rate is anywhere from 110–150 bpm, depending on the fitness of the mom. (But that number could potentially be higher depending on her activity level prior to pregnancy.) The key is to not push to the point of feeling lightheaded, short of breath, or exhausted. For many active women who are used to working out at a certain level before getting pregnant, these more individualized assessments are far more useful.
Sweating for two
Among the supporters of the shift in exercise safety measures are Paola and Pamela Del Hierro (who are known on Instagram as The Iron Twins). The fitness instructors and endurance pros are trainers at the Spartan Gym in Miami—and happen to currently both be pregnant. The duo say they prefer monitoring their activity levels using measurements that take their overall fitness into account.
“We’re in great shape—and because we’re athletic people, we [can] keep doing what we were doing,” Paola says. “We’re focusing on light-weight, high-rep exercises/circuit training at moderate intensity—on a scale of 1–10, we would say 6–7.”
The twins are staying away from high-impact workouts that could be hard on their joints, like box jumping, jumping rope, and running on cement, as well as sit-ups, heavy lifting, and inversions. Instead, they favor things like plank exercises, beach runs, and knee pushups. And the Del Hierros recommend their expectant clients stay active until delivery as well. Why? “It prevents complications down the road and aids in faster recovery,” says Paola.
Consider this bpm myth busted.
By: ZOE WEINER, May 7, 2017 | Read Full Article