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Exercise and Pregnancy: A Healthy Combination
Exercise during pregnancy is not only safe, it is a big part of staying healthy. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week as long as you do not have health problems.
How it Helps
Working out during this time can help with:
- Weight control
- Core muscle strength, which may help ease back pain
- Energy levels
- Getting your body ready to give birth
What to Focus on
The best exercises are ones that do not put stress on the joints, use smooth motions, and have a low risk of falling or body contact. Good choices are swimming, walking, stationary biking, and elliptical machines.
Things to Limit or Avoid
Some activities should be limited or avoided, such as:
- Scuba diving
- Things with a risk of falling, such as skiing and skating
- Contact sports, such as ice hockey and soccer
- Activities where you are lying flat on your back
- Training with heavy weights
How Long and How Often to Workout
Exercising for 30 minutes a day on most days of the week is all that is needed to stay fit. Women who want to workout longer should talk to their doctors first. Working out for 10 minutes at a time is also fine. Short bursts of activity can count toward your overall goal.
Other Things to Think About
- Balance: Your balance changes as your body shape changes. This could put you at a greater risk of falling.
- Temperature control: Exercising in a controlled, air-conditioned setting will help keep temperature levels in check. Wear layers of clothes and workout during the cooler hours of the day. Also, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Diet: Women who are pregnant need an extra 300 calories per day during the last 6 months. Exercising may raise these needs even higher.
- Altitude: High altitudes may cause problems. If you visit or live in a high altitude place, then talk to your doctor about how to make changes to your routine.
If you were not active before pregnancy, do not worry. You can slowly work up to 30 minutes a day. This is not the time to make big gains in your fitness level or compete at a high level. Athletes who want to keep a more strenuous exercise schedule should do so only after talking to their doctors.
Before You Start
Talk to your doctor before starting a program and be sure to go to all appointments. If you have any of these problems, then stop exercising right away and call your doctor:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Fluid leaking from the vagina
- Breathing problems
- Chest pain
- Weak muscles
- Calf pain or swelling
- Labor pains
- Changes in your baby’s movement
It is smart to be more careful during pregnancy, but there are still a wide range of things you can do if your doctor says it is okay. Working out during this time is probably the best way to get ready for the demands of motherhood.
After Baby Arrives
Working out can also be helpful after your baby has been born. It can boost your mood and help you return to your normal weight faster.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Activities to avoid during pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/activities-to-avoid-during-pregnancy-1144. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Exercise after pregnancy. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-after-pregnancy. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Exercise during pregnancy. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-during-pregnancy. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Healthy pregnant or postpartum women. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pregnancy. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Pregnancy nutrition. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/pregnancy-nutrition-1008. Accessed June 24, 2021.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board
- Review Date: 06/2021
- Update Date: 06/24/2021