Fitness and Exercise During Pregnancy

Depending on your level of fitness and your exercise regime before you became pregnant, exercise during pregnancy can help you stay in shape, lift your mood and prepare your body for labour.

fitness and exercise during pregnancy

Most women can engage in mild to moderate exercise during pregnancy. However, it’s always wise to talk it through with your health-care provider first. It’s important to not exhaust yourself; advice from the NHS states that you should be able to comfortably hold a conversation as you exercise while pregnant. If you feel breathless, then you’re likely exercising too strenuously.

If you didn’t engage in regular exercise before pregnancy:

  • Try starting gently with 10-minutes of moderate intensity exercise
  • Don’t do anything over-strenuous or risky
  • Stick with low-impact exercises, like walking or swimming
  • Join an antenatal exercise class so you can learn movements that are safe for you

There are lots of benefits to exercising while you’re pregnant:

  • Improved strength and stamina
  • Strengthened muscles
  • Greater fitness
  • Increased flexibility
  • Stress relief and mood lifting
  • Better sleep
  • Relief of back ache
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Ideal exercise during pregnancy

  • Normal daily activities for as long as you feel comfortable
  • Exercises that keeps you supple
  • Work outs that prepare your muscles for labour
  • Fitness regimes that don’t push your body too hard
  • Walking, swimming and aquanatal classes
  • Pregnancy yoga and pilates

NHS guidance states that if you weren’t active before becoming pregnant, you should not take up strenuous exercise during pregnancy. Always tell your fitness instructor that you’re pregnant, and begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, three times a week. Increase this gradually to at least four 30-minute sessions, if you feel able.

Exercises to avoid when pregnant

 High-contact sports (where there’s risk of being knocked or hit)

  • Balance-central sports, as pregnancy alters your sense of gravity
  • Any classes held in hot atmospheres
  • Sports that may induce altitude sickness (don’t exercise at heights over 2500m above sea level
  • Do not lie flat on your back for prolonged periods; particularly after 16 weeks, because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood to your heart

There are also physical changes to your body that you think about:

  • Your balance and centre of gravity will change as your baby grows
  • You may get out of breath quicker
  • Extra pressure on your heart as your blood volume increases
  • Ligaments can loosen and stretch due to pregnancy hormones

Bear these things in mind when exercising:

  • Warm up and cool down your muscles gently
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Don’t push yourself too much
  • If you become short of breath, stop
  • Don’t do activities that could cause trauma to your abdomen
  • Avoid exercises that involve bouncy, jerky movements

Stop exercising if you experience any of these:

  • Pain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Significant shortness of breath

Before you start any exercise regime, whether continuing something you’ve always done or trying something new, talk to your midwife or GP.