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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Should I Exercise During My Pregnancy?

A pregnant woman on an exercise ball

Photo: iStock

Almost all women can and should be physically active during pregnancy. First talk to your health care provider, particularly if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia, bleeding, or other disorders, or if you are obese or underweight. Whether or not you were active before you were pregnant, ask about a safe level of exercise for you. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (one in which you breathe harder but do not overwork or overheat) on most, if not every day of the week.

7 benefits of regular, moderate physical activity during pregnancy:

  1. Helps you and your baby gain the proper amounts of weight.
  2. Reduces the discomforts of pregnancy, such as backaches, leg cramps, constipation, bloating, and swelling.
  3. Lowers the risk of gestational diabetes (diabetes found for the first time when a woman is pregnant).
  4. Boosts mood and energy level.
  5. Improves sleep.
  6. Helps with an easier, shorter labor.
  7. Assists faster recovery from delivery and return to a healthy weight.

5 steps for safe exercise during pregnancy:

  1. Choose moderate activities unlikely to injure, such as walking, water aerobics, swimming, yoga, or using a stationary bike.
  2. Stop exercising when you start to feel tired and never exercise until you are exhausted or overheated.
  3. Drink plenty of water.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing that fits well and supports and protects your breasts.
  5. Stop exercising if you feel dizzy, become short of breath, feel pain in your back, experience swelling or numbness, feel sick to your stomach, or your heart beats too fast or at an uneven rate.

5 Tips for Getting going!

  1. Go for a walk around the block or through a shopping mall with your spouse or a friend.
  2. Join a prenatal yoga, water aerobics, or fitness class, letting the instructor know you are pregnant before beginning.
  3. Follow an exercise video for pregnant women.
  4. At your gym, community center, YMCA or YWCA, sign up for a fitness session for the pregnant.
  5. Stand up, stretch, and move at least once an hour if you sit most of the day, as well as during commercials when watching TV.

What shouldn't I do?

For you and your baby's health and safety, it is best to avoid:

  • Being active outside during hot weather.
  • Steam rooms, hot tubs, and saunas.
  • Certain yoga poses or other activities that call for lying flat on your back after the twentieth week of pregnancy.
  • Contact sports such as football and boxing that might injure you.
  • Sports like tennis or basketball that make you jump or change directions quickly.
  • Horseback riding, in-line skating, downhill skiing, and other activities that can result in falls.

Winter 2008 Issue: Volume 3 Number 1 Page 26