Exercise & Fitness During Pregnancy

Staying active during pregnancy will help your body stay in shape and be ready for labor and delivery, as well as make it easier to lose pregnancy weight after the baby is born. Yet, as many as nine out of 10 pregnant women don’t exercise at all.

Although many women think that activities like jogging and running will be detrimental to their baby, it’s okay for a woman to exercise at the same level she did before she was pregnant, as long as the pregnancy is normal and healthy.

Pregnancy does make a woman feel more tired, and that can make it difficult to be motivated to exercise. But the benefits to the mother and baby are substantial, which can serve as good motivation to make the effort to exercise.

The benefits of exercising during pregnancy

Exercising benefits for mothers include:

  • Less weight gain: during a normal pregnancy, you only need to gain 20-30 pounds
  • Less chance of developing gestational diabetes
  • Prevention of fatigue and back pain
  • Better self-image
  • Less chance of having a C-section
  • Less pushing during labor

Benefits for the baby include:

  • Better chance of a normal birth weight
  • Less chance of the child developing adult onset diabetes
  • Less chance of childhood obesity

Tips for exercising while pregnant

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women exercise for 30 minutes five to six times a week. Be sure to discuss safe exercises and activities with your doctor, particularly if you have any existing conditions or a history of past pregnancy complications. 

Your OB-GYN may clear you for even more aggressive exercise, as research shows that most pregnant women and their babies can easily handle more than the minimum suggested above.

Some important tips for exercising while pregnant:

  • You should feel comfortable while exercising
  • Be careful not to push your body too hard, and avoid exhaustion
  • Make sure to stretch adequately before and after exercising
  • Avoid exercises that involve excessive bouncing, jumping, twisting or full sit-ups
  • If you were comfortable exercising with your heart rate at 150 before pregnancy, you can maintain that same exercising heart rate during pregnancy
  • Stay especially well hydrated while exercising
  • Don’t start a new, intense exercise program while you’re pregnant

Safe exercises and activities for pregnant women include:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Easy hiking (at limited altitudes)
  • Aerobics
  • Dancing
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Lifting weights
  • Other non-contact activities

Pregnant and active – Deanna’s commitment to health

What activities to avoid & exercise risks

Activities that should be avoided include snow skiing and soccer, but not because the physical activity itself is dangerous. Rather, such activities increase the mother’s risk of having an abdominal trauma, so don’t undertake activities that may involve contact.

Avoid exercises that involve excessive bouncing or jumping, twisting, or full sit-ups. Additionally, do not exercise in hot weather without adequate hydration, or participate in contact sports or activities that put you at risk of falling.

If you’re having any troublesome side effects from exercise—particularly contractions, shortness of breath, chest pains or bleeding—you should stop exercising and see your doctor. Other reasons to stop exercising or decrease activity level include:

  • Headache
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain

Call your doctor if these symptoms continue after you have stopped exercising.

Nutrition during pregnancy

Maintaining a balanced diet and staying physically active while pregnant are important ways to care for yourself and your baby. Learn more about nutrition during pregnancy