Pregnancy and exercise

Exercise and Pregnancy

Some people are dedicated exercisers, for them exercising during pregnancy is a given.  They want to continue their normal routine as long as they can while waiting on the baby.   For women who struggle to get into the exercise routine, pregnancy may seem like the perfect excuse to give up exercise for 9 months.  But unless you are having complications, lack of exercise during pregnancy actually makes it tougher to get through.  So, use your pregnancy as a motivator to exercise.  Continue your current routine or start a new one, it is good for you and your baby!

Below are some general guidelines, for more information go to

**As always you should talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.  There are certain complications of pregnancy that can make exercise unsafe.

Benefits of exercise during pregnancy

  • Reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling
  • Boost your mood and energy levels
  • Help you sleep better
  • Prevent excess weight gain
  • Promote muscle tone, strength and endurance
  • Exercise during pregnancy might also reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and C-section delivery*.

How Much?

For most pregnant women, 30 minutes of moderate exercise is recommended at least 5 times a week.  If you have not been exercising before you were pregnant, start slow.   Even 5-10 minutes a day can help to start, then build up gradually 10, 15, 20 up to 30 minutes a day.

What type of exercise?

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Low impact aerobics
  • Stationary bike
  • Strength training with low weights

How Intense?

Listen to your body and pay extra attention to warming up slowly, staying hydrated and being careful not to get overheated.  A good rule is to always be able to carry on a conversation while you are exercising.    Intense exercise can direct blood flow toward your muscles but away from the uterus so If you can’t talk, you are pushing yourself too hard. Pregnancy also causes joints to loosen up a little so make sure you have good shoes and avoid situations where falling is likely.

What to avoid?

  • Dehydration or overheating
  • Any exercises that force you to lie flat on your back after your first trimester
  • Scuba diving, which could put your baby at risk of decompression sickness
  • Contact sports, such as ice hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball
  • Activities that pose a high risk of falling — such as downhill skiing, in-line skating, gymnastics, and horseback riding
  • Activities that could cause you to hit water with great force, such as water skiing, surfing and diving
  • Exercise at high altitude
  • Activities that could cause you to experience direct trauma to the abdomen, such as kickboxing
  • Hot yoga or hot Pilates

Call your doctor and stop exercising if any of the following occur during or after exercise:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Uneven or rapid heartbeat
  • Uterine contractions that continue after rest
  • Fluid leaking or gushing from your vagina
  • Decreased fetal movement
  • Calf pain or swelling
  • Muscle weakness affecting balance

*Exercise during pregnancy reduces the rate of cesarean and instrumental deliveries: results of a randomized controlled trial, Ruben BarakatMireia PelaezCarmina LopezRocío Montejo & Javier Coteron, J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2012 Nov;25(11):2372-6. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2012.696165. Epub 2012 Jun 22.Pages 2372-2376

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