Many women wonder whether or not it is safe to exercise during pregnancy. In general, the answer is YES! If you were active before your pregnancy, there is usually no reason to stop exercising during pregnancy. You may need to scale things back a bit and modify exercises to compensate for your growing belly, but continuing to be active will help prepare your body for the rigors of childbirth, and will help you bounce back even faster once your baby is born.

For many women, exercise during pregnancy has been shown to:

  • Help keep backaches, constipation, and fatigue at bay
  • Help you get a better night sleep
  • Help maintain a steady, healthy weight gain
  • Help you feel better about the changes happening to your body
  • Help improve your mood and clear your head

You should aim for about 30 minutes of moderate to brisk exercise each day. If you are new to exercise, don’t overdo it! Start with about 10-15 minutes of mild exercise and increase the duration of exercise by a few minutes until you reach 30 minutes a day. You can also increase the intensity as your body adjusts. As with any changes to your lifestyle, it is always best to consult your midwife or doctor before you begin. This is especially important if you are carrying multiples, have a previous history of miscarriage or premature labour, have a cervical weakness, or any other pre-existing medical concern. In those cases, exercise may not be advised; ask your midwife.

Exercises that are generally approved for pregnancy:

Walkingbe sure to wear comfortable clothing and stay hydrated

Swimming—the buoyancy of the water will help you feel light and graceful!

Water Aerobics—the water adds resistance and helps keep you cool

Yoga/pilates—ensure that the instructor is qualified to teach classes that include modifications for pregnancy

Cycling—your growing belly may throw off your balance. Stationary bikes are the safest bet in the second and third trimester

In any exercise, you should take care to avoid becoming overheated or dehydrated, especially in the first trimester.

Aqua Aerobics

There are a few exercises that are strongly encouraged during pregnancy. These include:

Stretching  The Hutt Hospital offers free classes in stretching during pregnancy and please see the ‘Stretching in Pregnancy’ handout for more information.

Pelvic floor exercises (Link to handout “Your Pelvic Floor”). Strengthening the muscles in your pelvic floor is essential to helping prevent pain and urine leakage during and after pregnancy. A strong pelvic floor will also make the childbirth process easier.

Perineal Massage  While not an exercise specifically, perineal massage helps prepare the perineum (area between your vagina and anus) for the stretching that will be required during the birthing process.

Stretching in Pregnancy
Stretching in Pregnancy
Perineal Massage
Perineal Massage

Exercises that are generally NOT approved during pregnancy:

  • Horseback riding
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Heated Yoga
  • High-Intensity Fitness classes
  • Gymnastics
  • Contact sports, such as rugby or football

Any exercise that may cause you to fall or involves the possibility of collision is generally not safe to do during your pregnancy. Exercises that require you to lie flat on your back after 16 weeks are also not advised.

You should stop exercising immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Contractions or unusual stomach pain
  • Leg cramps or joint pain

If you experience any of the above symptoms, talk to your midwife or doctor before resuming your exercise program.