Home Health Exercise for the Expectant Mother

Exercise for the Expectant Mother

by Munmun Moni
Exercise for the Expectant Mother
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Gentle exercise during pregnancy is good (and safe) for you and your baby. Not only does it help you maintain a healthy weight, but it also helps prepare your body for labor Exercise for the Expectant Mother.

Exercise for the Expectant Mother

Did you know that 150 minutes of exercise each week has loads of benefits for pregnant mums? It doesn’t have to be in one go, even bouts of 10 minutes can make a difference!

If you are used to doing regular exercise, keep it up, but do what feels comfortable for your body, and don’t push yourself too much – exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.

If you’re not used to exercising or have not done any for a while, now is a good time to begin. Try starting off with 10 minutes of daily activity – perhaps take a brisk walk. You can then build up to 150 minutes of weekly exercise.

Remember, whatever your fitness level, it’s really important that you listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

As a general guideline, you should be able to hold a conversation while exercising. If you can’t, you need to slow down.

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Talk to your healthcare provider about exercising during pregnancy. For most pregnant women, exercising is safe and healthy for you and your baby. Ask your provider about what kinds of activities are safe during your pregnancy

If you and your pregnancy are healthy, exercise won’t increase your risk of having a miscarriage (when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy), a premature baby (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), or a baby born with low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces).

Exercise for the Expectant Mother

Exercise for the Expectant Mother

How much exercise do you need during pregnancy?

Healthy pregnant women need at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Aerobic activities make you breathe faster and deeper and make your heart beat faster. Moderate intensity means you’re active enough to sweat and increase your heart rate. Taking a brisk walk is an example of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. If you can’t talk normally during an activity, you may be working too hard.

You don’t have to do all 2½ hours at once. Instead, break it up through the week. For example, do 30 minutes of exercise on most or all days. If this sounds like a lot, split up the 30 minutes by doing something active for 10 minutes 3 times each day.

Exercise for the Expectant Mother tips for pregnancy

Do not exhaust yourself. You may need to slow down as your pregnancy progresses or if your maternity team advises you to. If in doubt, consult your maternity team. As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation as you exercise when pregnant. If you become breathless as you talk, then you’re probably exercising too strenuously.
If you were not active before you got pregnant, do not suddenly take up strenuous exercise. If you start an aerobic exercise program (such as running, swimming, cycling, or aerobics classes), tell the instructor that you’re pregnant and begin with no more than 15 minutes of continuous exercise, 3 times a week. Increase this gradually to daily 30-minute sessions. Remember that exercise does not have to be strenuous to be beneficial.

Exercise tips when you’re pregnant:

  • always warm up before exercising, and cool down afterward
  • try to keep active on a daily basis – 30 minutes of walking each day can be enough, but if you cannot manage that, any amount is better than nothing
  • avoid any strenuous exercise in hot weather
  • drink plenty of water and other fluids
  • if you go to exercise classes, make sure your teacher is properly qualified and knows that you’re pregnant, as well as how many weeks pregnant you are
  • you might like to try swimming because the water will support your increased weight. Some local swimming pools provide aqua-natal classes with qualified instructors. Find your local swimming pool
  • exercises that have a risk of falling, such as horse riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics, and cycling, should only be done with caution. Falls carry a risk of damage to your baby

Exercises to avoid in pregnancy

  • do not lie flat on your back for long periods, particularly after 16 weeks, because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart and this can make you feel faint
  • do not take part in contact sports where there’s a risk of being hit, such as kickboxing, judo, or squash
  • do not go scuba diving, because the baby has no protection against decompression sickness and gas embolism (gas bubbles in the bloodstream)
  • do not exercise at heights over 2,500m above sea level – this is because you and your baby are at risk of altitude sickness
Exercise for the Expectant Mother

Exercise for the Expectant Mother

Exercises for a fitter pregnancy

If you are pregnant, try to fit the exercises listed in this section into your daily routine. These types of exercises will strengthen your muscles to help you carry the extra weight of pregnancy. They’ll also make your joints stronger, improve circulation, ease backache, and generally help you feel well.

Best strength and flexibility workouts during pregnancy

Strength workouts help maintain and build your muscles. Stronger and more flexible muscles, in turn, help you to bear the weight you gain throughout your pregnancy and protect your joints from injuries as your ligaments relax. As long as your doctor tells you it’s okay to work out, here are the best strengthening exercises for pregnant women:

Weight lifting

Lifting weights is a good way to increase your muscle tone when you’re expecting — just opt for more reps (i.e. 12 to 15 in a set) using a lower weight than usual. You might also want to switch to machines, which limit your range of motion to reduce any chance of injury.

Try to skip isometric movements — exercises where you hold still in a particular position — because if you accidentally forget to breathe (it’s a common mistake!), you could easily become lightheaded. Use light weights with multiple repetitions instead. And don’t forget to stretch when you’re done!

Ask your practitioner if you need to make modifications to your TRX routine, and skip the Crossfit unless you’ve been at it for years and get the okay from your doctor.


A pregnancy-appropriate Pilates routine focuses mainly on strengthening your core and lengthening your muscles with low- to no-impact, which will help ease backaches and improve your posture as well as your flexibility (and that all comes in handy during labor). Look for a class tailored specifically to pregnant women or let your instructor know you’re expecting to avoid moves that overstretch or otherwise aren’t compatible with pregnancy.


Barre classes — a mix of Pilates, yoga, and ballet-inspired moves — are excellent for expecting women because they involve strengthening your lower body and core without much jumping. They also involve balance exercises, which help keep you stable as your baby bump throws off your balance. Be sure to let your instructor know you’re pregnant before you begin class so he or she can give you modifications for the few exercises that can put extra strain on your abdomen.


Prenatal yoga is another ideal workout for moms-to-be: It encourages relaxation, flexibility, focus and deep breathing — all great preparation for giving birth. Look for a class specifically tailored to pregnant women, or ask your regular yoga instructor to modify the poses so they’re safe for you (that usually means avoiding deep backbends as well as full inversions like handstands and headstands because of potential blood pressure issues). Avoid Bikram (hot) yoga, since you need to pass on exercises that heat you up too much

Exercise for the Expectant Mother

Exercise for the Expectant Mother

Side-Lying Inner and Outer Thigh

Lie on your right side, head supported by your forearm, right leg bent at a 45-degree angle, and left leg straight. Place your opposite arm on the floor for stability. Lift left leg to about hip height and repeat for reps.

Then, bend your left knee and rest it on top of the pillows for support. Straighten your right leg and lift it as high as possible for reps. Switch sides and repeat for reps.

Curl and Lift

Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair with your back straight, your feet on the floor, and your arms at your sides. Hold a 5- to 8-pound weight in each hand, palms facing your body. Bend your elbows so your arms form a 90-degree angle.

Then, keeping your elbows bent, lift the weights to shoulder height. Lower your arms to your sides, then straighten to return to starting position. Repeat for reps.

Best cardio workouts during pregnancy

As long as you get the go-ahead to exercise from your practitioner, you can consider the following cardiovascular exercises to increase blood circulation, muscle tone, and endurance (which you’ll be thankful for come delivery day):


Swimming and water aerobics may just be the perfect pregnancy workout. Why? In the water, you weigh less than you do on land, so you’ll feel lighter and more agile. A dip in the pool may also help relieve nausea, sciatic pain and puffy ankles. And because the baby’s floating along with you, it’s gentle on your loosening joints and ligaments (your body’s natural response to pregnancy hormones).

Just be careful walking on slippery pool decks, and step or slide into the water rather than diving or jumping in. Your growing baby isn’t equipped to handle the bubbles that form inside the body when you quickly change altitudes under the pressure of the water (it’s why scuba diving is a big no-no). And as your pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity will likely be off too. All that means the impact of diving isn’t worth the potential risk.


There’s no easier exercise to fit into your busy schedule than walking during pregnancy … and it’s a workout you can continue right up until your delivery date (and even on that day if you’re anxious to help along the contractions). What’s more, you don’t need any special equipment or a gym membership to participate — just some good sneakers.


Want to go a little faster? Experienced runners can stay on track during pregnancy with a doctor’s okay. Stick to level terrain (or a treadmill) and never overdo it. Loose ligaments and joints during pregnancy can make jogging harder on your knees — and you’re more prone to injury.

Exercise for the Expectant Mother

Exercise for the Expectant Mother

Is physical activity safe for all pregnant women?

  • No. For some women, exercise is not safe during pregnancy. Your provider can help you understand if exercise is safe for you. The following conditions may make it unsafe to exercise during pregnancy. Preterm labor, bleeding from the vagina, or your water breaks (also called ruptured membranes). Preterm labor is labor that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Bleeding from the vagina and having your water break may be signs of preterm labor.
  • Being pregnant with twins, triplets, or more (also called multiples) with other risk factors for preterm labor. If you’re pregnant with multiples, ask your provider if it’s safe for you to exercise. Your provider may ask you not to do intense or high-impact activities, like running. But you may be able to do low-impact activities, like walking, prenatal yoga, or swimming.
  • Cervical insufficiency or a cerclage. The cervix is the opening to the uterus (womb) that sits at the top of the vagina. Cervical insufficiency (also called the incompetent cervix) means your cervix opens (dilates) too early during pregnancy, usually without pain or contractions. Cervical insufficiency can cause premature birth and miscarriage. If you have cervical insufficiency or a short cervix, your provider may recommend cerclage. This is a stitch your provider puts in your cervix to help keep it closed so that your baby isn’t born too early. A short cervix means the length of your cervix (also called cervical length) is shorter than normal.
  • Gestational hypertension or preeclampsia. Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure during pregnancy. It starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after you give birth.
  • Placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy. This is when the placenta lies very low in the uterus and covers all or part of the cervix. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Placenta previa can cause heavy bleeding and other complications later in pregnancy.
  • Severe anemia or certain heart or lung conditions. Anemia is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of your body. If you have a heart or lung condition, ask your provider if it’s safe to exercise during pregnancy.

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