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Can I exercise when I am pregnant?

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Nov 26, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

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.

Exercise suggestion Benefits
A brisk walk or light jog
  • Full body workout that is easy on your joints and muscles
Yoga and pilates
  • Improves flexibility
  • Helps stretch out sore muscles
  • Reduces stress
  • Focuses on breathing
Pre-natal classes will have modified poses to accommodate the shift in your balance.

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.

  • Improves blood circulation
  • Tones and strengthens abdominal and back muscles
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves flexibility
  • Can help ease bloating
  • Improves mood and fatigue
Stationary cycling
  • Improves your balance
  • Reduces the risk of ligament and back strain
  • Good cardiovascular workout - supports your heart and lungs
  • Strengthens your legs
Water aerobics and swimming
  • Strengthens body and muscles
  • Supports your weight so you avoid injury or strain
  • Easy on your joints and muscles

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
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Regular, painful contractions of the uterus
  • Absent movement of your baby
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