Skip Navigation
Lifecycle is Mask Optional: Read More Here 
April 22, 2022

Expert Advice to Help You Exercise Safely During Pregnancy

If you are expecting, you may be wondering how to exercise safely during your pregnancy. Lifecycle midwife and resident fitness expert, Sarah Appleby-Wineberg, organized the following FAQ’s to help you plan your workouts from the first trimester through postpartum.

Should I exercise while pregnant?

The short answer is yes! Starting or maintaining a regular pattern of exercise during pregnancy is beneficial for both you and your baby.

The benefits for you include:

  • A decrease in overall weight gain
  • Less aches and pains during pregnancy (such as lower back pain)
  • Decreased likelihood of developing pregnancy-related complications, such as gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia.
  • Decreased risk of cesarean birth
  • Quicker recovery after birth (labor and birth are both physically strenuous activities – being fit for this big event helps!)

The benefits for your baby include:

  • Less likely to show distress in labor
  • Less likely to have a bowel movement (meconium) before birth
  • Hormonal levels in the amniotic fluid suggest that they experience better oxygenation in labor
  • Better at maintaining blood sugar and body temperature after birth

Additionally, as babies of exercisers grow into toddlers, they achieve higher scores on tests of motor development, general intelligence, and language skills. As adults, they tend to have a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.

How much exercise is safe?

Ideally, a healthy pregnant person should get about 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise per week. This can be broken up into 20 – 30 minute intervals a day, or broken up into shorter 10 minute sessions throughout the day.

Moderate intensity exercise should raise your heart rate and make you start sweating. If you were already active before becoming pregnant, you can continue to do whatever workouts you are used to doing. If you are new to exercise, we recommend that you start exercising 5 minutes a day. Then add 5 more minutes each week until you can sustain 20-30 minutes.

What type of exercise is safe?

Some examples of moderate intensity exercise include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming and water workouts
  • Stationary cycling
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Dancing

If you are an experienced runner, or do racquet sports, you can safely continue with these activities.

Activities like strenuous weight training are not as well researched. However, research does suggest that light to moderate workouts with weights have no detrimental effects and contribute to improved energy in pregnancy.

It is safe to do yoga or other exercises lying on your back. Be mindful that sometimes the weight of the baby on your spine can cause you to feel dizzy in this position. If that happens, you can modify the position by tilting to one side.

Are there any types of exercise that should be avoided?

Cycling outdoors is risky because as your belly grows, your balance changes. Contact sports, such as soccer, basketball, or ice hockey, should be put on pause due to the risk of sustaining a blow to the abdomen.

Any sports with a fall risk, such as skiing, surfing, gymnastics, and horseback riding should be avoided, as well as heavy weightlifting (i.e. anything over 50 lbs). While yoga is safe, it is recommend to steer clear of “hot yoga” or any exercise that takes place in a hot room.

What are the best practices for a successful workout during pregnancy?

Your joints and ligaments are more susceptible to injury in pregnancy. It’s very important to warm up and stretch for a few minutes before beginning your workout. Plan to exercise in a cool room or during the coolest part of the day.

Stay hydrated! Keep water handy and sip it throughout your workout.

As your belly grows, consider using a belly support band, especially if you’ll be doing any jumping, running, or dancing. These movements will not cause any harm to your baby, but the ligaments that support your uterus may become sore.

Is there any reason that I should stop exercising?

The most important thing you can do is pay attention to your body. If you feel any discomfort, decrease the intensity of your exercise or stop and touch base with your provider.

You should stop exercising and call your provider right away if experience:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Regular, painful contractions (keep in mind: Braxton-Hicks contractions are more common during exercise and for up to one hour after finishing your workout. This is normal.)
  • Amniotic fluid leakage
  • Dizziness or headache
  • Chest pain

When can I resume exercising after I give birth?

Some people who have a vaginal birth feel ready to add in gentle exercises a few days postpartum. Start with walking and increase as you feel ready. If the movement causes you pain or you notice an increase in vaginal bleeding, this is your body’s way of telling you to slow down. Water exercises can be resumed once your bleeding is scant or finished. If you have a cesarean birth, wait 2 – 4 weeks before restarting gentle exercises and 6 weeks before any strenuous exercise.

Exercising does not affect milk production or milk quality for lactating parents. You may want to feed your infant right before you start your exercise session and wear a supportive bra for your own comfort.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please be sure to ask your provider at your next appointment or call us at 610.525.6086.