Exercise in pregnancy  

The more active and fit you are during pregnancy, the easier it will be for you to adapt to your changing shape and weight gain. It will also help you to cope with labour and get back into shape after the birth. Keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise (sport, running, yoga, dancing, or even walking to the shops and back) for as long as you feel comfortable. Exercise is not dangerous for your baby – there is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour.

Exercise tips for pregnancy

Don’t exhaust yourself. You may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses or if your maternity team advises you to. If in doubt, consult your maternity team.

As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you’re probably exercising too strenuously.

If you weren’t active before you got pregnant, don’t suddenly take up strenuous exercise. If you start an aerobic exercise programme (such as running, swimming, cycling, walking or aerobics classes), tell the instructor that you’re pregnant and begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, three times a week. Increase this gradually to at least four 30-minute sessions a week.

Remember that exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.

Exercise tips when you’re pregnant:

  • Always warm up before exercising, and cool down afterwards
  • Try to keep active on a daily basis: half an hour of walking each day can be enough, but if you can’t manage that, any amount is better than nothing
  • Avoid any strenuous exercise in hot weather
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids
  • If you go to exercise classes, make sure your teacher is properly qualified, and knows that you’re pregnant as well as how many weeks pregnant you are
  • You might like to try swimming because the water will support your increased weight. Some local swimming pools provide aquanatal classes with qualified instructors. Find your local swimming pool
  • Exercises that have a risk of falling, such as horse riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics and cycling, should only be done with caution. Falls may risk damage to the baby

Exercises to avoid in pregnancy

  • Do not lie flat on your back for prolonged periods, particularly after 16 weeks, because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart and this can make you feel faint
  • Try not to take part in contact sports where there’s a risk of being hit, such as kickboxing, judo or squash
  • You must not scuba diving, because the baby has no protection against decompression sickness and gas embolism (gas bubbles in the bloodstream)
  • Do not exercise at heights over 2,500 m above sea level until you have acclimatised: this is because you and your baby are at risk of altitude sickness

Exercises for a fitter pregnancy

If you are pregnant, try to fit the exercises listed below into your daily routine. They will strengthen your muscles so that you can carry the extra weight of pregnancy. They’ll also make your joints stronger, improve circulation, ease backache, and generally help you feel well.

Stomach-strengthening exercises

As your baby gets bigger, you may find that the hollow in your lower back increases and this can give you backache. These exercises strengthen stomach (abdominal) muscles and may ease backache, which can be a problem in pregnancy:

  • Start in a box position (on all fours) with knees under hips, hands under shoulders, with fingers facing forward and abdominal muscles lifted to keep your back straight
  • Pull in your stomach muscles and raise your back up towards the ceiling, curling the trunk and allowing your head to relax gently forward. Don’t let your elbows lock
  • Hold for a few seconds then slowly return to the box position
  • Take care not to hollow your back: it should always return to a straight/neutral position
  • Do this slowly and rhythmically 10 times, making your muscles work hard and moving your back carefully
  • Only move your back as far as you can comfortably