Exercise Can Help Keep You Healthy During Pregnancy

Women's Health Update

While a woman is pregnant, she wants to try to do the best for her health and the health of her growing baby. 

Eating well, taking prenatal vitamins, and getting the necessary prenatal care, usually top the list. But, exercising while pregnant also can have many benefits for both mom and baby.

Women who exercise at least 30 minutes at moderate intensity most days during pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and GynecologistsOff Site Icon (ACOG), can experience health benefits including:

  • Better posture
  • Better sleep
  • Decreased risk of gestational diabetes
  • Improved endurance, muscle tone, and strength
  • Improved mood
  • Increased energy
  • Less bloating and swelling
  • Less constipation

Staying active during pregnancy has also been shown to improve a woman’s ability to work through labor and delivery, according to the ACOG. And, it makes it easier to get back in shape after the baby is born.

Unlike exercising during other stages of life, exercising while pregnant means additional hormones make your ligaments and joints more relaxed, which increases your chances of injury, according to the ACOG. 

Additional weight from the pregnancy can shift your center of gravity, making you less stable and at greater risk of back pain, according to the ACOG.

To exercise for your health, but avoid most risks, the ACOG recommends the following activities, even for people who don’t regularly exercise:

  • Aerobics
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Walking

If you were a runner before becoming pregnant, it is usually safe to continue running, according to the ACOG, although you might have to change your routine some as your pregnancy progresses.

Even when you are participating in safe pregnancy exercise, it is still important to be more cautious than during other times of your life.

The National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH) recommends avoiding the following activities during pregnancy:

  • Being active outside during hot weather
  • Contact sports, including boxing and football
  • Horseback riding, skating, skiing, and other activities that can lead to falls
  • Hot tubs, saunas, and steam rooms
  • Scuba diving
  • Sports in which you jump or shift positions quickly, such as basketball and tennis
  • Yoga poses and any other exercises that require lying on your back after 20 weeks of pregnancy

In addition, the ACOG recommends following these steps to improve your pregnancy exercise routine:

  • Choose a bra that fits well with plenty of support
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Ease into an exercise routine, especially if you have not been active recently
  • Eat the extra daily calories you need to maintain a healthy pregnancy
  • Wear comfortable, breathable clothing

Even if you exercise regularly, it is important to discuss a pregnancy exercise routine with your health care provider to make sure you are following all the steps necessary to keep you and your growing baby healthy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s HealthOff Site Icon (OWH) states that if you experience any of the following issues while exercising during pregnancy, you should stop the activity and call your doctor:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Calf pain
  • Calf swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Contractions
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Less fetal movement
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal fluid leakage

For more information about exercise and pregnancy, talk with your doctor or find a physician.