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  • Jesse Lewis

Exercise During Pregnancy: What You Should Know


You probably have a lot of questions on how to modify your exercise during pregnancy. Assuming you have good health and a normal pregnancy, as confirmed by your ob-gyn, it should be completely safe to continue exercising. If you weren’t active beforehand, this is a good time to start slow. Learn everything you need to know about exercising while pregnant from benefits, to how often you should get moving, to safe exercises and ones you should be careful during, and symptoms that you should seek medical attention for.


Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy

Contrary to some misconceptions, engaging in physical activity while pregnant does not increase any risk of negative effects such as miscarriage and early delivery. In fact, informed regular movement has many benefits, including:

  • Increase in your overall fitness

  • Keeps you on track for healthy weight gain

  • Reduces backaches

  • Boosts your mood

  • Increases your energy levels

  • Strengthens your heart

  • Decreases back pain

  • Eases constipation

  • Helps you sleep better

  • Decreases your risk of gestational diabetes

  • Reduces the chances of preeclampsia

  • Decreases the likelihood of a mandatory C-section

  • Puts you on track to lose pregnancy weight once your baby is born

How Often to Exercise During Pregnancy

Pregnant women should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days of the week, or 150 minutes per week. It’s important to take your current physical fitness into account. If you were not active before pregnancy, work your way up to the recommended guidelines by starting with 10 to 15 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Walking, swimming, or cycling on a stationary bike are great ways to hit this goal. It’s also safe to continue strength training with relatively low weights during pregnancy. Keep reading to learn more about safe exercise.


Safe Exercises During Pregnancy

You can do more than you think you can while pregnant. While this may not be the best time to start something completely new, you can continue your lifting and running routines as long as you feel good. It’s a good habit to be mindful of your heart rate during your workouts and not overdo it. During pregnancy, it’s normal for your baseline heart rate to increase up to 20 beats per minute. It will increase at a faster rate during cardio exercise than when you are not pregnant.


Once you’re farther along, your belly will get in the way for burpees, kettlebell swings, deadlifts, and many other movements you may be accustomed to. You may also notice pressure, pain, or leaking during cardio that involves running, jumping, or lifting. Listen to what your body is telling you and modify your workouts to disclude any movement that causes you pain or discomfort. Below is a list of safe exercises for pregnant women—these exercises are best because they are relatively low impact.


  • Brisk walking

  • Swimming (and other water workouts)

  • Stationary bikes

  • Elliptical machines

  • Yoga and pilates classes (tell your instructor you are pregnant so they can help you modify poses)

  • Strength training (with light weights)

Exercises to Be Cautious of During Pregnancy

Avoid or carefully practice the following exercises to keep yourself and your baby safe during pregnancy.

  • Any activity where you may fall (eg. off-road cycling, skating, horseback riding)

  • Exercise that requires extensive bouncing or jumping (eg. cardio classes, jump roping)

  • Any sport that puts your belly at risk for getting hit (eg. soccer, boxing, basketball)

  • Activities that can cause you to hit the water (eg. surfing, diving)

  • Skydiving or scuba diving

  • Heated classes (eg. hot yoga) or outdoor workouts on hot days

  • Exercising at high altitudes above 6,000 feet (unless you live at this altitude)

  • Any exercise that brings you to the point of complete exhaustion

  • In the third trimester, avoid exercises where you are lying flat on your back or belly

Signs to Watch For

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should stop exercising immediately and get in touch with a healthcare provider.

  • Vaginal bleeding (or other fluids leaking)

  • Headaches

  • Chest pains

  • Dizziness

  • Shortness of breath before exercise

  • Swollen and painful calves

  • Painful contractions that take place after you’ve rested


Always consult with your doctor since there are precautions and contraindications to certain exercises when you are pregnant and every woman’s situation is unique. If you are cleared and you feel good, take these tips into consideration, listen to your body, and enjoy your workout! You will reap many benefits from staying active.


Need Further Guidance?

Our physical therapists are passionate about helping women maintain their health throughout pregnancy. Reach out to us by filling out this form texting, or calling us at 202-922-7331.


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