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Exercise during pregnancy is not only safe, it’s increasingly recommended. The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy women get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise on most if not all days of the week is recommended for pregnant women who have no medical or obstetric complications.
Some benefits of exercising regularly during pregnancy can include:
The best exercises for pregnancy are those that put minimal stress on the joints, involve smooth movements, and have a low risk of falling or body contact. Great exercises include swimming, walking, stationary biking, and elliptical machines.
Some activities pose increased risks in pregnancy and should be limited or avoided. These include:
Exercising for 30 minutes a day on most days of the week is all that’s needed to maintain fitness and achieve related benefits. Women who wish to exercise for a longer period of time should speak to their doctors before doing so. Getting your exercise in 10-minute spurts is also fine. As long as you exercise at a moderate or vigorous pace for at least 10 minutes, these short bursts of exercise can count toward your overall goal.
If you were sedentary before pregnancy, do not despair. You can still reap the benefits of exercise by gradually working up to 30 minutes per day. Realize that pregnancy is not the time for making significant gains in your fitness level—or for athletic competition. Competitive athletes who wish to maintain a more strenuous exercise schedule throughout pregnancy should do so only under the close supervision of their doctors.
Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program during pregnancy and be sure to follow up with regular check-ups. Additionally, if you notice any of the following symptoms, stop exercising right away and contact your doctor:
Although it may be wise to proceed with a little more care then usual, pregnant women who are medically cleared should feel free to partake in a wide array of activities. Exercising during pregnancy has many benefits, including an improved sense of well-being. It’s probably the best way to prepare for the physical demands of motherhood.
Regular exercise can also be helpful after your baby has arrived. Exercise during the postpartum period can boost your mood and help you return to your normal weight faster.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Exercise after pregnancy. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-After-Pregnancy. Accessed February 5, 2016.
Exercise during pregnancy. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-During-Pregnancy. Accessed February 5, 2016.
Fit for two: Tips for pregnancy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/tips-for-two-pregnancy/Pages/fit-for-two.aspx. Updated June 2013. Accessed February 5, 2016.
Healthy pregnant or postpartum women. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/pregnancy.html. Updated June 4, 2015. Accessed February 5, 2016.
Kramer MS, McDonald SW. Aerobic exercise for women during pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006;3:CD000180.
Pregnancy nutrition. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/pregnancy-nutrition. Updated July 2015. Accessed February 5, 2016.
Recreation and pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/recreation. Updated July 2015. Accessed February 5, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 2/5/2016