Exercise During Pregnancy

Pregnancy “dos” and “don’ts” can be overwhelming. Do take your prenatal vitamins. Don’t consume too much caffeine. Do eat seafood. But don’t eat sushi. When it comes to exercise, it’s natural to have concerns about what’s safe. But the general rule for most moms-to-be is that exercise is squarely a do.

If your pregnancy is not considered high-risk, it is safe to continue or start regular physical activity. Physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. Regular exercise can actually help reduce the risk of many pregnancy complications.

Guidelines for Exercise

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, if you have no complications and a healthy pregnancy, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week. Moderate intensity means enough movement to slightly elevate your heart rate and perhaps sweat. However, during the exercise you should still be able to talk normally. If you were active prior to pregnancy, you can usually continue with the same type of workouts with your provider’s approval.

Benefits of Exercise

At Hinge Health, we like to say that movement is medicine, and that is definitely true when it comes to healthy expectant moms and babies. Regular prenatal exercise may help reduce:

  • Low back pain

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Gestational diabetes

  • Preeclampsia

  • Cesarean birth

  • Constipation

  • Acid reflux and heartburn

  • Excessive weight gain

  • Fatigue

  • Mental health conditions like prenatal anxiety and depression

  • Urinary incontinence during pregnancy

Exercise Precautions

While exercise is safe and recommended for those with a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, certain situations may require precaution. Lying on your back for an extended period of time after 20 weeks is not recommended. Exercise in this position might be allowed for short periods of time, if cleared by your doctor. Talk to your provider if you have any of the following, or if you have any concerns about what’s safe and appropriate for you:

  • History or symptoms of preterm labor

  • Multiples pregnancy

  • Placental issues or vaginal bleeding during pregnancy

  • Certain heart or lung conditions

  • Preeclampsia or high blood pressure

Avoid activities that can increase your risk of injury, including:

  • Exercises that put a lot of strain on your abdomen (e.g., sit-ups)

  • Excessive rotation of the spine (e.g., yoga poses with a lot of twisting)

  • Activities that are high risk for contact, falling, or abdominal trauma (e.g, skiing, rollerblading)

  • Extreme movements or heavy lifting

  • Exercising in extreme heat (e.g.,, hot yoga or Pilates)

Pregnancy Body Changes

Your growing bump (and related body changes) may mean some adjustments to how you exercise:

  • Looser joints: Pregnancy hormones relax the joints in your pelvis (to help your body prepare for labor). This can make you more mobile, and could increase your risk of injury.

  • New center of gravity: Your bigger belly shifts your center of gravity, which can change your gait, cause lower back and hip pain, and make you more likely to lose your balance.

  • Shortness of breath: You have a greater need for oxygen when pregnant, which can make you breathe heavier, especially during strenuous exercise.

  • Pelvic floor and bladder issues: Your growing uterus puts more pressure on your pelvic floor and bladder, which can cause urine leakage (also known as stress incontinence).

Getting Started

  • If you’re not already exercising regularly, work up to 30 minutes of exercise on most days. (A daily walk is a great way to get started.)

  • Incorporate pelvic floor, core, and hip strengthening, as well as gentle flexibility exercises into your routine. Diaphragmatic breathing exercises, which help support healthy abdominal and pelvic muscles, is also a good idea.

Ask your Hinge Health physical therapist or coach about adding these exercises to your plan.

Key Takeaways

  1. Most expecting moms with healthy, low-risk pregnancies should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week.

  2. Regular exercise during pregnancy helps reduce back pain and pregnancy-related complications (like preeclampsia), as well promote sleep, healthy weight gain, and more.

  3. Certain situations (like high blood pressure or a history of preterm labor) and activities (e.g., heavy lifting, excessive twisting) do require caution. Talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns you have about exercising during your pregnancy.


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  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Pregnancy and exercise: Baby, let’s move! Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-and-exercise/art-20046896

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