Whether this is your first pregnancy or your fifth, you may be wondering, “Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?” Experts throughout the world recommend exercise during low-risk or uncomplicated pregnancy unless your medical doctor has advised against it.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “Women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be encouraged to engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during, and after pregnancy.”
There are plenty of reasons to exercise. Exercise may provide a time for you to get together with a good friend or help you accomplish a personal goal. Regular exercise can even help you sleep better! Regardless of why you enjoy working out, women who exercise during pregnancy experience improved fitness, wellbeing, and weight management, as well as a lower risk of gestational diabetes. Those benefits are highly motivating, but they’re just part of the story.
The Very Best Reason to Exercise While Pregnant
Perhaps the best reason to exercise during pregnancy is that it directly benefits your baby’s health by strengthening their neuromuscular development before they’re born. This is important because the neuromuscular system regulates the body’s physical movement and stability. Infants born to mothers who exercise are more likely to have excellent motor skills that make it easy for them to be physically active, according to research from the American Heart Association and East Carolina University.
If you haven’t exercised much, we encourage you to check with your medical doctor before starting an exercise program. Physical exercise can be good “training” for labor and delivery, which may be the most physically difficult, rewarding, challenging, and beautiful event of your lifetime. But play it safe and speak with your health care team first.
Can You Exercise to Lose Weight While Pregnant?
Although you may lose some weight in your first trimester due to morning sickness, it’s not recommended that anyone try to lose extra weight during pregnancy because it can increase your risk of preterm labor, among other complications. “Losing weight can be associated with pregnancy complications such as fetal growth restriction and preterm birth,” according to Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT.
When it Comes to Exercise, Safety Comes First!
Pregnant women should avoid exercise with a high risk of falling (for example, many medical professionals recommend you avoid horseback riding and skiing while pregnant). But there are several workout options that are safe for pregnant women. Variety keeps fitness routines from becoming boring, so consider trying a few of the following activities recommended by the March of Dimes and the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Just remember, as your body changes over the nine months of pregnancy, you may need to make modifications to some specific exercises or workout schedules.
Walking is the most popular exercise among pregnant women. It can be done alone or with friends, indoors or outdoors, and as a low-impact aerobic activity that gets your heart rate up, walking isn’t likely to injure muscles or joints. Walking is especially easy to work into your daily routine—consider walking up and down stairs instead of taking the elevator, walk your dog for an extra 15 minutes, and forgo the reserved parking for pregnant women (if available) in favor of walking in the sunshine. (And when you leave the grocery store, pushing your shopping cart past the reserved parking spaces builds in some extra strength training!)
Swimming and water exercise routines are the second most popular option. Carrying a baby increases buoyancy, making it easy for you to move in the water. And if lower back pain, sore joints, or strained muscles are a concern, an ultra-low-impact water workout is the way to go.
Spin time on a stationary bicycle is another low-impact aerobic activity, and it’s much safer than cycling on the road or through a park. According to the March of Dimes, “You’re less likely to fall off a stationary bike than a regular bike, even as your belly grows.”
- Strength training with a safe amount of weight is a great way to build muscle and strengthen your bones. Check with your doctor for guidance on weight limits and exercises.
Pilates and yoga (avoid hot yoga) are some of the most popular workouts for people of all ages and stages of life. Your instructor can be a terrific resource, especially when you’re pregnant. They can help you avoid unsafe positions, teach you how to modify poses (for example, using a bolster so you don't have to lie flat on your back), and recommend relaxation exercises for pregnancy. If you’re interested, you can also ask them about prenatal yoga and Pilates for pregnant women.
- With a doctor’s permission, jogging and running may also be good options, especially for women who were joggers and runners before pregnancy. According to scientists from Stanford University and the University of Michigan who studied pregnant women who were competitive long-distance runners before pregnancy, “Running is a popular sport that may be performed safely during pregnancy.”
Timing Is Everything
As far as how much time you should spend on your maternity fitness routine, the ACOG and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend working up to moderate exercise for 20 – 30 minutes or more each day. Similarly, guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) include 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening exercises each week of pregnancy.
Consider a Personal Trainer Certified in Maternity Workout Programs
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a leading certification organization for exercise professionals and health coaches. Their Medical Exercise Specialist Certification, among others, is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). In addition, American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA) certifies Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialists. You may also be able to find exercise classes for pregnant moms in your city.
Go with the Flow… Modify and Adapt for Success!
By now you’ve probably realized that life is very different when you’re pregnant. Adaptation is the key to successfully transitioning into being pregnant (and out of being pregnant in nine months). We’ve already mentioned that exercise modifications are very helpful in honoring your fitness commitment, whether you're new to exercise or you're used to exercising all seven days of the week. Your joints and muscles are working differently, so pay close attention to what feels good. Consistent exercise is important, so if you’re getting frustrated and want to stop exercising, ask a professional about modifications that will accommodate your needs. Try to find what you can do to get in your workout while pregnant—but make sure to listen to your body.
Whatever type of exercise you choose (no contact sports, please!), having the optimal maternity workout clothes is also important. Kindred Bravely offers a wonderful array of supportive maternity and postpartum nursing sports bras in a range of sizes from 30B - 44I. Be sure to check out the positive reviews and fashion-forward colors! If comfort on the go is what you’re after, check out our gorgeous activewear assortment.
What’s your fit pregnancy plan? Comment below.
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please reach out to your health care team with any questions.