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Womens Health

Healthy Pregnancy: Tips on Working Out for Two

If you’re pregnant, you need to be extra careful and know your limits.

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Being physically active has tremendous health benefits for pregnant women. Exercising may help:

  • Prevent or help control gestational diabetes
  • Ease symptoms such as back pain, constipation and varicose veins
  • Renew energy
  • Sleep better
  • Manage your mood
  • Get back in shape after childbirth

Getting ready to exercise

You'll need to talk to your doctor before you increase your activity or start an exercise program. Your doctor can help you decide the type of activities and level of exercise that are right for you. If you exercised before becoming pregnant, you can usually keep doing it, though your doctor may suggest modifying the pace. Discuss any precautions you might take.

Due to your changing body, there might be restrictions on doing some exercises and recommendations may change over the course of the pregnancy. Exercising could cause serious problems if you have certain pregnancy complications or medical conditions, such as:

  • Certain types of heart or lung disease
  • Preeclampsia or pregnancy-related high blood pressure
  • Having complications in previous pregnancies
  • Vaginal bleeding

Choosing an exercise program

Most healthy moms-to-be should try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise — approved by your doctor — most days of the week. Here are some suggestions:

  • Walking. This is generally a safe way to get aerobic exercise without exhausting yourself.
  • Swimming. The water will make you feel weightless, provide resistance that can keep your heart rate up, and tone and strengthen your muscles.
  • Cycling or hiking. These provide great aerobic activity. You may need to avoid or be cautious cycling if you have trouble balancing.
  • Yoga. This type of exercise strengthens muscles and helps you get back into shape after childbirth. Look for classes specifically for moms-to-be.

Women who were runners before their pregnancy generally can continue to run. You may need to change your routine especially over the course of your pregnancy.

Exercises to avoid

Certain exercises can be dangerous for pregnant women due to risk of fall or injuring the abdomen. Avoid activities such as:

  • Contact sports, such as soccer, softball, basketball or ice hockey
  • Downhill skiing and inline skating
  • Horseback riding
  • Scuba diving

Working out safely

Help keep your exercise sessions injury-free with these tips:

  • Start out slowly.
  • Gradually increase your workout over time.
  • Warm up and cool down after exercise.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout.
  • Take breaks whenever you need them.
  • Avoid jerky movements, as they can put you at risk for joint or muscle injuries.
  • Don't lie on your back after your first trimester.
  • Don’get overheated. Don't work out in weather that is too hot and humid to avoid getting overheated.
  • Stop your workout and call your doctor at once if you experience any unusual symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding, contractions or decreased fetal movement.

Finally, exercise  during pregnancy may make it easier to get back in shape once you've delivered your baby.

By Beth Hawkins, Contributing Writer

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Chapter 1, 4, 7. Your Pregnancy and Childbirth. 6th ed. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2015. Chapter 7: Some additional considerations for adults. Accessed: June 15, 2016.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Exercise during pregnancy. Accessed: June 15, 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy pregnant or postpartum women. Accessed: June 15, 2016.

Last Updated: June 16, 2016