Exercise has many benefits during pregnancy. It can help relieve aches and pains, reduce constipation, strengthen your joints, and help you sleep better. It can also help you feel better about the way you look, prepare you for labor and delivery, and help you return to your pre-pregnancy body more quickly after your baby is born.
For almost all women, exercise is safe throughout pregnancy. However, you should always discuss exercising with your doctor before you start. If your pregnancy is high-risk (if you have pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, early contractions, vaginal bleeding, or are at risk of miscarriage or premature birth), your doctor may advise you to limit or avoid exercise.
If you were already exercising regularly before you became pregnant, you should be able to continue doing so during your pregnancy. You will likely need to make adjustments as your body and energy level change. Some studies indicate that you can safely start an exercise program during pregnancy even if you did not exercise regularly before your pregnancy. But it is especially important to talk to your doctor before doing this, because you will need to gradually add exercise into your routine.
If your doctor has cleared you to exercise during your pregnancy, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. Examples include walking, swimming, and aerobic dancing. You should stop exercising if you feel fatigue, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or back or pelvic pain. You should be able to talk while you are exercising.
Avoid becoming overheated by not overdoing it on hot days. Avoid exercising outside from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm during hot months.
Certain exercises, including contact sports, downhill skiing, and horseback riding, should be avoided because of the risk of injury. Scuba diving is not safe in pregnancy and must be avoided. Also avoid activities that include bouncing, jarring, sudden changes in direction, and risk of abdominal injury. Avoid or modify exercises done on your back such as sit-ups and some types of yoga. These exercises may be uncomfortable. They can also limit blood flow to your baby.
American Pregnancy Association
President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Exercising during pregnancy. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/exercising-pregnancy.html. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Health tips for pregnant women. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/tips-for-two-pregnancy/Pages/fit-for-two.aspx. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2017 by Andrea Chisholm, MD Last Updated: 3/15/2015