Can your facility meet the needs of today’s active pregnant women? Before implementing a prenatal fitness program in your facility, consider the special needs of pregnant women and the skills required of your staff to service your clients adequately.

Special Considerations

Pregnant women have physical limitations that keep them from participating in many types of exercise. While most women can continue their exercise routine in the first trimester, strenuous or high-injury activity can be potentially dangerous to women and their babies. Pregnant women need to monitor the intensity of their workout and avoid activities that may cause harm to the fetus.1 Here are some exercise guidelines recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that you should pass along to your pregnant clients: 1

Get approval from a doctor before starting any exercise program
Choose low-impact activities if new to exercise
Exercise regularly and in moderation
Drink lots of water before, during and after exercise
Wear light clothing and stay cool during exercise
Exercise at 50 to 60 percent of maximal heart rate
Include a five-minute warm-up and cool-down with activity
Work out for at least 20 minutes a day, three times a week

Exercise in hot or humid weather
Soak in hot tubs or hot water above 100 degrees Fahrenheit 3
Allow heart rate to exceed 140 beats per minute
Exercise to exhaustion or fatigue
Participate in strenuous activity that exceeds 15 to 30 minutes
Allow body temperature to exceed 101 degrees Fahrenheit
Exercise in the supine (back-lying) position after the first trimester
Stand for long periods of time
Perform activities that may harm the abdomen or cause a loss of balance
Exercise on an empty stomach
Push stretches too far

Program Design

After considering the special needs of your pregnant clients, choose a prenatal fitness program for your facility. Many club professionals design their own prenatal fitness program, while others implement programs already designed by prenatal fitness specialists.

For instance, Australian Body Works in Atlanta, Ga., provides clients with the Fit For 2 group exercise program for pregnant women.4 Fit For 2, designed by Lisa Stone, a pre- and postnatal fitness specialist certified by the American Council on Exercise, implements a 22-minute cardiovascular workout, along with strength training, stretching and abdominal/pelvic floor work.7

Pike Creek Fitness Club in Wilmington, Del., however, utilizes programs designed by Motherwell Maternity Health & Fitness. Classes include the Mothers In Training class or the prenatal Aquacise class led by a licensed Motherwell instructor.8 The classes last at least one hour and include warm-up, cardiovascular workout, resistance training, flexibility, posture and coordination exercises.7

Low-impact exercise is usually best for pregnant women, as it gives them an aerobic workout, and helps to improve posture, alleviate back pain and relieve other pregnancy-related discomforts. Resistance training can also be helpful to increase muscular strength and endurance without putting stress on the fetus.3

Prenatal fitness classes can range from traditional low-impact activities such as step aerobics, swimming, walking and stretching, to non-traditional activities such as dancing and yoga. To ensure your client’s safety and reduce the liability risk, clients should obtain written permission from their doctors before participating in prenatal fitness classes.

Special Skills for Instructors

Before you implement a prenatal fitness program in your facility, make sure your instructors have received special training and have experience working with pregnant clients. Instructors should be knowledgeable about exercise physiology during pregnancy, and should refer to the exercise guidelines published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.2

In addition, instructors can become certified to teach prenatal classes through organizations such as Motherwell, Dancing thru Pregnancy and others. Motherwell offers several different instructor certification tracks, such as Land, Water Fitness, Shape-up with Baby and Yoga, that follow the exercise safety guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.7 Dancing thru Pregnancy offers continuing education credit for its prenatal health and fitness certification program. Instructors learn about pregnancy, nutrition, safety and program design for individuals or groups.5

With careful program design and instructor training, your facility can offer prenatal fitness to clients who may have gone elsewhere to work out.

In addition, you may boost the sales and membership retention at your facility by offering prenatal group exercise classes, prenatal personal training sessions or special fitness packages that combine the two. The sales opportunities for your facility are limitless, as clients will always need a place to work out to ensure their health and the health of their babies.

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