For most expecting moms, mild to moderate exercise has many health benefits. It is important to consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine while pregnant, as each pregnancy has specific needs. In general, it is recommended for pregnant women to get 150 minutes of aerobic activity spread throughout the week.
Benefits of Physical Activity During Pregnancy
- Reduces risk of developing gestational diabetes
- Promotes healthy weight gain
- Reduces risk of developing preeclampsia
- Promotes better sleep
- Improves stress management
- Reduces back and leg pain
- Eases constipation and swelling
- Reduces risk of postpartum depression
- Strengthens the heart and blood vessels
First, Get Approval from Your Doctor
It is always important to talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine during pregnancy. Your doctor may encourage you not to exercise if you have any of the following health conditions:
- Blood pressure issues or preeclampsia that develops for the first time during pregnancy
- Cervical or placenta issues
- Some forms of lung and heart disease
- Persistent vaginal bleeding after the first trimester
- Preterm labor during the current pregnancy
- Pregnant with twins and at risk of preterm labor
- Severely low iron
- Premature rupture of the membranes
Some Key Things to Remember
During pregnancy, there are some exercise limitations to keep in mind. It is important to avoid physical activity while lying on your back after the first three months of pregnancy. Avoid overstretching and overheating when exercising. It can be a good idea to be active earlier in the morning or in the evening when the weather is cooler during the summer months. Drinking water is also crucial before, during, and after being active to replace lost fluids. Also, aim to eat a balanced diet with appropriate calories to support your body and baby.
Exercises Considered Safe During Pregnancy
- Brisk walking is easy on muscles and joints and provides a total body workout, making it a great exercise choice during pregnancy.
- Swimming is a great activity while pregnant because it uses many of the body’s muscles and helps avoid injury because the water supports your weight.
- Stationary biking is a safer option when expecting than standard biking due to the lower risk of falling.
- Low-impact aerobics help strengthen your heart and lungs while promoting blood circulation, which benefits pregnant women and their growing babies.
- Prenatal yoga has many health benefits, such as improving flexibility, reducing stress, and focusing on breathing techniques.
- Modified Pilates helps accommodate an expecting woman’s shifting balance through non-impact strength and flexibility workouts and is a great choice for expecting moms.
What Exercises Should be Avoided?
- Contact sports such as soccer or basketball increase the risk of getting hit in the abdominal area and, therefore, should not be played while pregnant.
- Skiing, skating, gymnastics, horseback riding, and off-road biking are all activities with a high risk of falling. These activities should be avoided as a growing belly can affect balance and make you more prone to falls.
- Scuba diving could put your baby at risk for decompression sickness, so expecting women should not participate in this underwater activity.
- Hot yoga and hot Pilates are not recommended during pregnancy due to the potential to cause overheating, which could lead to complications.
- Heavy weightlifting could put unnecessary strain on a pregnant woman’s changing body and should be avoided unless okayed by your doctor.
- Exercise at a high altitude can lead to altitude sickness and should be avoided while pregnant, especially if you do not already live at a high altitude.
Warning Signs to Stop Activity
Stop exercising and contact your healthcare provider immediately if you have dizziness, chest pains, trouble breathing, uterine contractions, bleeding, or lower leg pain. Avoid pushing yourself too hard and increase your level of activity slowly and with guidance from your doctor.
It can be easy to get bored when trying to stick to your pregnancy exercise plan. Start small by taking daily walks throughout your neighborhood or taking the stairs instead of the elevator when you have the option. Exercising with a friend is another great way to stay encouraged and active. Having a partner can help hold you accountable and give you a person to talk to while exercising. You also may find it helpful to join pregnancy-focused fitness classes or groups to stay motivated. Choose a class that works with your schedule and that you find interesting!
- “Exercise during Pregnancy.” AGOC. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Mar. 2022, Web. 22 Sept. 2022.
- Klemm, C. S. “The Importance of Physical Activity During Pregnancy.” EatRight. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 6 July 2020. Web. Sept. 22, 2022.
- “Physical Activity: Healthy Pregnant or Postpartum Women.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2022.
- “Pregnancy and exercise: Baby, let’s move!” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2022.