Is it Safe to Exercise While Pregnant?

Pregnancy is a beautiful phase of life, bringing joy and anticipation. It’s also a time when the body undergoes significant changes. One way to adapt to these changes and prepare for labour is to maintain an active lifestyle.

Incorporating regular exercise in pregnancy can have numerous benefits for both the mother and the unborn baby. However, specific caution and guidance should be followed to ensure safety.

Exercise and Pregnancy: A Vital Connection

Exercise during pregnancy is not just safe, but it’s highly beneficial. It helps manage weight, improves mood, and prepares the body for childbirth.

An active lifestyle can also improve recovery post-birth and boost overall fitness levels.

The Importance of Exercise in Pregnancy

It’s essential to understand why maintaining an active lifestyle during pregnancy is crucial.

Here are some key benefits:

  1. Well-being: Regular exercise promotes a general sense of well-being. It boosts energy levels and helps manage the physical changes that come with pregnancy.
  2. Weight Management: Exercise helps manage weight gain during pregnancy, promoting a healthy body image.
  3. Strength Building: Regular workouts can strengthen the back, pelvic, and abdominal muscles, supporting the growing weight of the baby.
  4. Preparation for Labour: Exercise builds stamina and strength, preparing the body for labour and birth.
  5. Postpartum Recovery: Staying active during pregnancy can aid quicker recovery post-childbirth and assist in regaining pre-pregnancy shape.

Understanding the Changing Body and Exercise

During pregnancy, the body undergoes various changes that can impact the way you exercise.

Understanding these changes can help you adapt your workout routine accordingly.

  1. Cardiac Changes: Pregnancy hormones cause the heart to pump faster to meet the increased blood supply demand, meaning pregnant women are already doing an aerobic workout.
  2. Circulatory Changes: The blood volume increases as the baby grows, impacting the blood flow to the heart and legs.
  3. Body Temperature: The body’s temperature is naturally slightly higher during pregnancy. Hence, intense workouts can raise the core temperature to an unsafe level for the baby.
  4. Joint Changes: Pregnancy hormones cause the ligaments to soften, affecting joint stability and increasing the risk of injury.

Exercise Guide For the Different Stages of Pregnancy

Exercises for Different Stages of Pregnancy

Exercise is beneficial during pregnancy for most women, but the amount and intensity of exercise can vary depending on the stage of pregnancy, individual health, and advice from a healthcare provider. Here’s a general guide:

First Trimester

  • Normal Routine: If you were already exercising regularly before pregnancy, you could likely maintain your routine, with some modifications for safety.
  • Consultation: It’s crucial to discuss your exercise regimen with your healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe for you and the baby.

Second Trimester

  • Adjustments: As your belly grows, you may need to modify exercises to avoid lying flat on your back and to reduce the risk of balance-related falls.
  • Intensity: You might start reducing high-impact activities and focus on low-impact exercises like swimming or walking.

Third Trimester

  • Further Reductions: This is when you may need to significantly reduce the intensity of your workouts. The body’s changing center of gravity and the additional weight can make certain activities more difficult or uncomfortable.
  • Gentle Exercise: Focus on gentle exercises, such as prenatal yoga or Pilates, with modifications as recommended by an instructor who is knowledgeable about pregnancy.

Throughout Pregnancy

  • Hydration and Nutrition: Stay well-hydrated and properly nourished before, during, and after exercise.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you feel pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath, stop exercising and consult your healthcare provider.
  • Routine Checks: Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider are essential to monitor the health of you and your baby and to make adjustments to your exercise routine as needed.

Guidelines to Follow

  • Avoid Contact Sports: Activities with a high risk of falling or abdominal trauma should be avoided.
  • Heart Rate Monitoring: Some healthcare providers may recommend keeping your heart rate below a certain level.
  • Avoid Overheating: Be cautious not to overheat, especially during the first trimester.

Note: Each pregnancy is unique, and what is safe for one person may not be for another. It is essential to follow the advice of your healthcare provider regarding exercise during pregnancy.

Safe Exercises for Pregnancy

Pregnant Swimming Exercise

Regular exercise is safe for most pregnant women unless specific medical conditions advise otherwise.

Here are some pregnancy-safe exercises:


Walking is an excellent low-impact exercise that doesn’t strain the joints and muscles. It can be easily incorporated into daily routine, making it a popular choice for pregnant women.

Yoga and Pilates

Yoga and Pilates can help manage stress and maintain flexibility. They also strengthen the core muscles and improve balance. However, it’s essential to inform the instructor about your pregnancy, so they can modify certain poses to ensure safety.

Swimming and Water Workouts

Water workouts and swimming are excellent aerobic exercises. The water supports the body weight, reducing pressure on the joints and muscles.

Stationary Cycling

Stationary biking is safer than regular biking during pregnancy. It allows for a good cardiovascular workout without the risk of falling or balancing problems.

Low-Impact Aerobics

Low-impact aerobic classes are safe during pregnancy. They help maintain cardiovascular health and muscle tone without straining the joints or causing balance issues.

Strength Training

Strength training with light weights can help build muscle and strengthen bones. However, it’s important to avoid lifting heavy weights during pregnancy.

Exercises to Avoid During Pregnancy

Despite the benefits of exercise in pregnancy, certain activities should be avoided to ensure safety.

These include:

  1. High-Impact Sports: Activities like basketball, downhill skiing, and gymnastics carry a risk of falling and should be avoided.
  2. Contact Sports: Sports like kickboxing, judo, or squash could lead to abdominal trauma and should be avoided.
  3. Scuba Diving: Scuba diving can expose the baby to decompression sickness and should be avoided.
  4. Exercising at Heights: Exercising at altitudes over 2,500m above sea level can cause altitude sickness.

The Role of Pelvic Floor and Abdominal Exercises

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic floor and abdominal exercises can play a crucial role in managing pregnancy changes. These exercises strengthen the muscles that support the uterus, bladder, and bowels, helping to manage weight gain and prepare the body for childbirth.

It also holds many benefits postpartum, so keeping yourself in good shape before giving birth can reap rewards after the baby is born, although you will likely need to keep these exercises up afterwards.

During delivery, the pelvic floor muscles are stretched and can be weakened. This can lead to issues such as incontinence or reduced sexual function.

Here are the key benefits of postpartum pelvic floor exercises:

  • Improved Recovery: Focusing on pelvic floor strength can help accelerate postpartum recovery, allowing these muscles to regain their pre-pregnancy tone and function.
  • Reduced Risk of Incontinence: By continuing to work on these muscles after birth, new mothers can significantly reduce the risk of stress urinary incontinence, a common postpartum concern.
  • Enhanced Core Stability: Strengthening the pelvic floor contributes to overall core stability, which can be compromised after childbirth, and is essential for good posture and reducing back pain.
  • Support for Organ Function: A strong pelvic floor helps support the bladder, uterus, and rectum, contributing to improved control and function of these organs.
  • Increased Sexual Satisfaction: Rebuilding the pelvic floor muscles can also enhance sexual satisfaction by restoring muscle tone and sensation.

Wrapping Up

An active lifestyle during pregnancy can have numerous benefits. Regular exercise can improve physical health, prepare the body for labour, and boost emotional well-being. However, it’s essential to understand the changes your body undergoes during pregnancy and adapt your workout routine accordingly. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regime during pregnancy.

Remember, every pregnancy is unique. What might work for one woman might not work for another. Listen to your body, understand its limitations, and make exercise a fun part of your pregnancy journey.