How to Safely Exercise During Your Pregnancy

If you’re healthy and your pregnancy is normal, getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to support your changing body. Learn about the many benefits of prenatal exercise and learn how to do it safely.

There’s an outdated notion — one which persists as a widespread misconception — that pregnancy is an inherently “delicate” condition, and it’s unhealthy, risky, or even dangerous to exercise when you’re expecting. 

But for most pregnant women, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Once your obstetrician at New Beginnings OB/GYN has assessed your health and given you the go-ahead, regular exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do while pregnant. Here, Dr. Rania Ibrahim and Dr. Christina Parmar explore the many benefits of prenatal exercise and explain how to do it safely through each trimester. 

Safe exercise during pregnancy

If you’re healthy and your pregnancy isn’t considered high-risk, it’s generally safe to continue exercising or start a prenatal workout routine. In normal, healthy pregnancies, physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, or low birth weight. 

Whether you’re already active or plan to get active, it’s important to discuss exercise with your obstetrician at an early prenatal appointment (we ask about physical activity at your first visit). If you’re cleared for exercise, we can discuss your current exercise routine or recommend good prenatal workout options for beginners.  

Prenatal exercise benefits 

Getting regular exercise when you’re pregnant offers a variety of benefits: It can elevate your mood, ease common pregnancy-related discomforts, lower your risk of certain complications, and prepare your body for labor and delivery. Specifically, prenatal exercise can:

  • Reduce backaches and swelling
  • Lessen constipation and bloating
  • Promote healthy weight gain 
  • Foster increased muscle strength 
  • Build your cardiovascular endurance
  • Boost your daily energy levels 
  • Help you get deep, restful sleep  

Regular prenatal workouts may also reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes and having an unplanned C-section delivery; women who work out through their pregnancies are more likely to have shorter labors and easier postpartum recoveries.  

Prenatal exercise guidelines 

For your prenatal workouts to be just as safe as they are beneficial, we recommend adhering to the following basic guidelines: 

Daily or weekly duration

Ideally, you should aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise most days of the week or at least 150 minutes of total exercise each week. If it works better for your schedule, you can break up your exercise time into multiple shorter sessions: Instead of taking one 30-minute walk in the morning you might take three brisk 10-minute walks after each meal.  

If you’re a beginner, start slowly and gradually increase your activity level: Begin with as little as 10 minutes each day, adding another 10 minutes each week until you’re can stay active for 30 minutes at a time. 

If you were very active before pregnancy, you can continue your same workout routine with your obstetrician’s approval or recommended modifications.  

Good exercise choices

The following exercises are considered most beneficial — and safest — during pregnancy:

  • Brisk walking: Pump your arms or use trekking poles for a full-body workout
  • Swimming and water workouts: Buoyant, full-body exercise that’s easy on your joints
  • Prenatal yoga: A modified approach that reduces stress and improves flexibility 
  • Prenatal group exercise: Strength and balance training classes just for moms-to-be  

Avoid high-impact cardio training, plyometrics (intense jumping exercises), hot room yoga, contact sports, and any activities that risk falling or abdominal injury (racquetball, outdoor cycling). 

Intensity considerations

Aim to perform your low-impact workouts at a moderate intensity, meaning you’re working hard enough to get your heart rate up and break a sweat but not so hard that you can’t speak comfortably. Your workout should never leave you gasping for breath or unable to continue for more than a few minutes. 

Key body change considerations

It’s crucial to be aware of pregnancy-related body changes and how they can influence your choice of activity and your intensity level. Three critical changes are:

  • Relaxed joint ligaments: Shifting hormones make your joints less stable
  • Shifting center of gravity: As your belly grows, your center of balance shifts
  • Greater need for oxygen: Pregnancy places a high demand on your cardiovascular system  

In short, the best prenatal exercise is the kind that doesn’t strain your joints, compromise your balance, or overburden your already hard-working cardiovascular system. 

Prenatal exercise restrictions

Specific conditions that may cause our team to recommend no exercise or restricted physical activity include:

  • A multiple pregnancy (i.e., twins or triplets)
  • Severe anemia; certain heart and lung diseases
  • Preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure)
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy
  • Preterm labor or cervix problems during this pregnancy
  • Ruptured membranes (your water has broken) 

As you can see, many conditions that call for restricted activity during pregnancy develop at later stages. Even if you’re cleared for exercise at the start of your pregnancy, the emergence of a high-risk condition can promptly make exercise off-limits. Making sure exercise remains safe through each trimester, especially in later weeks, is part of our comprehensive prenatal care approach.  

If you have questions about prenatal exercise guidelines or workout options, our seasoned women’s health team has answers. Call or click online to schedule a visit at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, today.