Exercise During Pregnancy: Safe Ways to Keep Your Body Healthy

exercise during pregnancy

Congratulations, your body is growing a tiny human! You still want to be active and exercise during pregnancy, but may be asking yourself how. I know how it feels to work your butt off in the gym, only to now wonder if you can continue to do so with the little baby growing in your belly.

You can!

If you have a low-risk pregnancy with no complications and are cleared for exercise by your OBGYN or midwife, there is no reason for you not to exercise during pregnancy. 

I know how easy it can be to sit and binge Netflix while eating a pint of ice cream every night. I mean, you are going to get bigger and gain weight over the next few months (as you should), so you may be thinking what’s the point of exercising during pregnancy?

There are many reasons why you should continue to remain active while pregnant: 

  1. Decreased lower back, hip and joint pain
  2. Help reduce swelling
  3. Improve pregnancy-induced constipation
  4. Increase energy and improve mood
  5. Better sleep
  6. Improved fitness capacity for both you and baby for labor and delivery 
  7. Easier bounce-back after pregnancy

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women, with no other complications, should exercise for 30 minutes a day, most if not all days of the week. If this seems like a monumental task, any little bit can help! Whether its 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, or doing all 30 minutes at once, it will benefit both you and your growing baby. 

Now that you know WHY you should exercise during pregnancy, let me help you with the HOW. 

Safe Exercise During Pregnancy

The most common question I get from my pregnant patients is what types of exercise they can safely do. The good news is, there are a lot of them!

If you were active before, you should be able to exercise during pregnancy as you did before with some modifications. These may include decreasing the amount of weight you are lifting to avoid injury, running at a slower pace, or even walking, as your pregnancy progresses. The goal is to maintain your fitness level as much as possible. This is not the time to go for any new personal records or try to loose weight. 

If you are new to exercise, start slowly. Walking would be perfect for you! This is not the time to jump into a difficult or intense exercise program. 

Safe Exercises

  1. Walking (or running if you did so before pregnant)
  2. Swimming
  3. Yoga, Pilates, or Barre (especially any prenatal classes you can find)
  4. Elliptical
  5. Dance
  6. Indoor cycle classes
  7. Weightlifting (with lighter weight)

Exercises to Avoid

  1. Horseback riding
  2. Outdoor cycling at later stages of pregnancy (due to risk of falling) 
  3. Contact sports such as hockey or competitive basketball 
  4. Repeated high-impact activity such as jumping
  5. Excising in a hot climate such as hot yoga
  6. Activities with a risk of falling: gymnastics, downhill skiing, vigorous racket sports
  7. Any exercise that makes you move beyond a comfortable range of motion
  8. Scuba diving
  9. Exercise to exhaustion
  10. Exercise that includes prolonged laying on your back – if possible, elevate the head of the bench or whatever you are laying on

Tips to Make it Easier

  1. Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes. 
  2. Wear proper-fitting athletic shoes with proper support. 
  3. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. 
  4. Take time to stretch during your cool-down to avoid injury. 
  5. Pick an activity that is fun for you! This will help you stay consistent with your exercise routine throughout your pregnancy. 
  6. Find a friend to exercise with! It will help keep you accountable, plus make it more enjoyable. 

Whatever activity you decide to do, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! This is one of the most important things you can do while exercising during pregnancy. If a certain exercise doesn’t feel right or is causing pain, try to modify it or don’t do it. If you feel you are getting overtired, back off a little bit or take a break.

Exercise is meant to give you energy, not take it away. There are many local professionals who can help you along your pregnancy fitness journey and answer and questions or doubts you may have. These include a women’s health physical therapists, certified prenatal personal trainers, and your midwife or physician. 

Keeping your body strong during pregnancy has many benefits, and can be easy and fun! So, get out there and get (safely) moving, future mama! 

For more advice on postpartum exercise and wellness, check out Jill’s posts here!

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Dr. Jill is a mom, wife, and women's health physical therapist. She married Ryan in 2010 and they have 2 children, Easton (2013) and Molly (2015). Their family enjoys being active by participating in various activities, being outside, and going to the lake in the summer. Jill has been a physical therapist for 10 years. She is a Women's Health Certified Specialist and has earned a Certificate of Achievement in Pelvic Health Physical Therapy. She is also certified in pelvic floor dry needling. She practices at Apex Physical Therapy and Wellness in West Fargo. She loves her work and greatly enjoys advocating for the health of women! Jill feels very lucky to be able to work part-time, which makes for a very busy clinic schedule but also a lot of good time at home with her family. Give her a follow on Instagram.

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