Exercise For Pregnancy

Exercising during your pregnancy is safe and healthy. If you exercised before you became pregnant, you can continue doing the same exercise now. The aim should be to keep your current level of fitness. Regular exercise during pregnancy can improve health, reduce the risk of excess weight gain and back pain, and it may make delivery easier. It works wonders for both you and baby, gives a healthier start.


The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, step or elliptical machines, and low-impact aerobics. These activities carry little risk of injury, benefit your entire body, and can be continued until birth.

Brisk walking

This will provide a cardiovascular workout without too much impact on the knees and ankles. It can be done for free, almost anywhere, and at any time during pregnancy.

Safety tip: As pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity changes, and you can lose your sense of balance and coordination. Choose smooth surfaces, avoid potholes, rocks, and other obstacles, and wear supportive footwear.


Swimming and exercising in water give a better range of motion without putting pressure on the joints. The buoyancy offered by the water may offer some relief from the extra weight. Swimming, walking in water, and aqua aerobics offer health benefits throughout pregnancy.

Safety tip: Choose a stroke that feels comfortable, and that does not strain or hurt your neck, shoulders, or back muscles, for example, breaststroke. A kick-board can help strengthen the leg and buttock muscles.
  1. Use the railing for balance when entering the water, to prevent slipping.
  2. Avoid diving or jumping, as this could impact the abdomen.
  3. Avoid warm pools, steam rooms, hot tubs, and saunas, to minimize the risk of overheating.

Stationary cycling

Cycling on a stationary bike, also called spinning, is normally safe even for first-time exercisers. It helps raise the heart rate without putting too much stress on the joints. The bike helps support body weight, and, because it is stationary, the risk of falling is low. Later in pregnancy, a higher handlebar may be more comfortable.


Prenatal yoga classes keep the joints limber and help maintain flexibility. Yoga strengthens muscles, stimulates blood circulation, and enhances relaxation. These may contribute to a healthy blood pressure during pregnancy. The techniques learnt in yoga class can also help you to stay calm and in control during labor.

Safety tip: As pregnancy progresses, skip positions that could cause you to overbalance. From the second semester, it is better to avoid poses that involve lying on the abdomen or flat on the back. Lying on the back can cause the weight of the fetus and the uterus to put pressure on major veins and arteries and decrease blood flow to the heart. It can be tempting to overstretch, as the hormone relax-in increases flexibility and joint mobility during pregnancy. Overstretching could lead to injury.


Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and helps maintain muscle tone. Low-impact aerobics excludes jumping, high kicks, leaps, or fast running. In low-impact exercise, one foot should stay on the ground at all times. Compared with high-impact aerobics, the low-impact option:
  1. limits stress on the joints
  2. helps maintain balance
  3. reduces the risk of weakening the pelvic floor muscles
Some aerobics classes are designed especially for pregnant women. This can be a good way to meet other pregnant women, as well as exercising with an instructor who is trained to meet your specific needs. Women who already attend a regular aerobics class should let the instructor know that they are pregnant so they can modify exercises and advise about suitable movements.


During labor, squatting may help to open the pelvis, so it may be a good idea to practice during pregnancy.
  1. Stand with the feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart, and the back straight.
  2. Lower yourself slowly, keeping your feet flat and your knees no further forward than your feet.
  3. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then slowly push up.

Pelvic tilts 

These can strengthen the abdominal muscles and help reduce back pain.
  1. Go down on the hands and knees.
  2. Tilt the hips forward and pull the abdomen in, arching the back.
  3. Hold for a few seconds.
  4. Release, and let the back drop.
  5. Repeat this up to 10 times.


During pregnancy, exercise helps to:
  1. increase heart rate steadily and improve circulation
  2. keep the body flexible and strong
  3. support and control healthy weight gain
  4. prepare the muscles for labor and birth
  5. shorten the labor process
  6. increase the chances of an unmediated birth
  7. decrease the need for pain relief
  8. speed up recovery after delivery
  9. reduce the risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension
  10. decrease the likelihood of preterm labor and birth

Who Should Not Exercise During Pregnancy?

If you have a medical problem, such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes, exercise may not be advisable. Exercise may also be harmful if you have a pregnancy-related condition such as:
  1. Bleeding or spotting
  2. Low placenta
  3. Threatened or recurrent miscarriage
  4. Previous premature births or history of early labor
  5. Weak cervix
Talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Your doctor can also give you personal exercise guidelines, based on your medical history.

What Exercises Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?

There are certain exercises and activities that can be harmful if performed during pregnancy. They include:

  1. Holding your breath during any activity.
  2. Activities where falling is likely (such as skiing and horseback riding).
  3. Contact sports such as softball, football, basketball, and volleyball.
  4. Any exercise that may cause even mild abdominal trauma such as activities that include jarring motions or rapid changes in direction.
  5. Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing, or running.
  6. Deep knee bends, full sit-ups, double leg raises, and straight-leg toe touches.
  7. Bouncing while stretching.
  8. Waist-twisting movements while standing.
  9. Heavy exercise spurts followed by long periods of no activity.
  10. Exercise in hot, humid weather.


Stop exercising and consult your health care provider if you:
  1. Feel chest pain.
  2. Have abdominal pain, pelvic pain, or persistent contractions.
  3. Have a headache.
  4. Notice an absence or decrease in fetal movement.
  5. Feel faint, dizzy, nauseous, or light-headed.
  6. Feel cold or clammy.
  7. Have vaginal bleeding.
  8. Have a sudden gush of fluid from the vagina or a trickle of fluid that leaks steadily.
  9. Notice an irregular or rapid heartbeat.
  10. Have sudden swelling in your ankles, hands, face, or calf pain.
  11. Are short of breath.
  12. Have difficulty walking.
  13. Have muscle weakness.
After delivery you may be eager to get in shape quickly, return to your pre-pregnancy fitness routines gradually. So, most women can safely perform a low-impact activity one to two weeks after a vaginal birth. Do about half of your normal floor exercises and do not try to overdo it.

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