Can I exercise when I am pregnant?
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Nov 16, 2022.
Exercise has many health benefits for healthy pregnant and postpartum women. If you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it is usually safe to commence or continue physical activity. There are, however, some women who should avoid exercise or specific exercises during pregnancy, so make sure to check what is best for you with your healthcare provider.
Women who were regularly exercising before pregnancy can continue to do so safely with moderations. If you are a beginner to exercise it is best to start slowly and build up your intensity and duration gradually.
It is recommended that pregnant women should regularly do at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week. This should be moderate-intensity aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises and is beneficial to continue these activities after having your baby.
The table below includes suggested exercises that are usually suitable for during and after pregnancy. Always remember to tell you teacher or instructor if you are pregnant or have recently had a baby.
|A brisk walk or light jog||
|Yoga and pilates||
Dancing such as belly dancing, ballroom dancing or in early pregnancy jazz and samba.
Avoid dance styles that have a lot of movements and lifts, like ballet and hip hop.
|Water aerobics and swimming||
If you have already been doing a high-intensity physical activity such as running, jogging or racquet-sports, you may be able to continue to do so, particularly during the early stages of pregnancy. Some women find they need to stop high-intensity forms of exercise as their pregnancy progresses. Talk to your healthcare provider about how to adjust your activity during and after your pregnancy and what forms of exercise are suitable for you and your particular stage of pregnancy..
How does pregnancy affect my ability to exercise?
There are a few changes that your body goes through during pregnancy that can affect your ability to exercise. Be aware of them and choose or modify exercises to accommodate these changes.
- Pregnancy hormones - cause ligaments to become relaxed and can make joints more flexible. This can put you at increased risk of injuries.
- Balance - your centre of gravity changes as your belly grows. This can cause strain on your pelvis and back and put you at risk of falls.
- Breathing - your need for oxygen increases as your pregnancy progresses. This can affect your ability to participate in more strenuous activities.
What precautions should I take?
There are a few precautions that you should take when exercising during pregnancy.
- Make sure to drink plenty of water when doing any exercise.
- Avoid any exercises that can put you at risk of a strain or fall like contact sports or high altitude activities.
- Don’t do any exercises that require you to be lying on your back or standing still for too long. These may temporarily decrease your blood pressure and put pressure on your spine.
- Avoid any activity that can make you overheat such as hot yoga or hot pilates. Exercise indoors in a cool environment and wear comfortable breathable clothing.
- Wear a sports bra to support your breasts. During later pregnancy a belly support belt may make you more comfortable when running or walking.
- Always begin with a warm up and finish with a cool down and gentle stretching.
What are the signs that I should stop exercising?
There are warning signs during pregnancy that tell you that it may be time to stop or take a break from exercise. These conditions can happen to an experienced exerciser or a beginner. Immediately stop the exercise and consult your healthcare provider if you have any of these signs.
- Bleeding or fluid loss from the vagina
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Shortness of breath before starting exercise
- Chest pain or tightness
- Muscle weakness
- Calf pain or swelling
- Abdominal pain
- Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
- Absent movement of your baby
- Olson, David1; Sikka, Robby S.2; Hayman, Jacob1; Novak, Melissa1; Stavig, Christina1 Exercise in Pregnancy, Current Sports Medicine Reports: May-June 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 3 - p 147-153 doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e3181a61d51
- Story, Mary, Stang, Jamie. Nutrition and the pregnant adolescent : a practical reference guide. Minneapolis, MN, Centre for Leadership, Education, and Training Program in Maternal and Child Nutrition, Public Health Nutrition, Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, 2000. https://www.worldcat.org/title/nutrition-and-the-pregnant-adolescent-a-practical-reference-guide/oclc/45368979 [Accessed 27 November, 2020]
- Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period: ACOG Committee Opinion, Number 804. Obstet Gynecol. 2020;135(4):e178-e188. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000003772
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Exercise During Pregnancy. July 2019. Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-during-pregnancy [Accessed 27 November, 2020].
- Parenting, first cry. Dancing During Pregnancy – Benefits and Important Safety Tips. 7 April, 2018. Available at: https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/dancing-during-pregnancy/ [Accessed 27 November, 2020].
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, . 2018. Available at: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf#page=79 [Accessed 27 November, 2020].
- Centers for disease control and prevention (CDC). Healthy Pregnant or Postpartum Women. Reviewed 17 September, 2020. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pregnancy/index.htm [Accessed 27 November, 2020].