Medically Reviewed on 9/7/2021
You should talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you to exercise during pregnancy. However, in most cases, exercising during pregnancy will benefit you and your baby.
If you worked out regularly before you got pregnant, you may be wondering if you need to cut back on your gym time now. Or maybe you’ve heard about the benefits of exercising during pregnancy and are wondering if you should start. You should talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you to exercise. However, in most cases, exercising during pregnancy will benefit you and your baby.
Benefits of exercise in early pregnancy
Regular exercise during your first trimester sets you up for an easier, healthier pregnancy and delivery. It also sets your baby up for a healthy lifestyle. Some of the rewards of exercising during pregnancy include:
Decreased risk of some complications
Women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to have some complications of pregnancy, including:
- Gestational diabetes
- Excessive weight gain
- Preterm birth
- Gestational hypertension, which is high blood pressure in pregnancy
Exercising during pregnancy has been associated with many psychological benefits. Women reported fewer negative feelings, improvements in general mood, less depression, and increased self-esteem when exercising. They also reported less pain during childbirth.
Starting early in pregnancy, many women start having problems sleeping. Moderate exercise during pregnancy may help you sleep longer. If you’ve been tossing and turning at night, your sleep will continue to improve over time as you continue to exercise.
Healthy weight gain
It probably comes as no surprise that women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to gain too much weight. Specifically, exercising 3 times weekly for 30 to 45 minutes has been shown to help decrease excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
Best exercises for the first trimester
While there are some types of exercises you should avoid during pregnancy, there are many safe activities to choose from. In most cases, you can continue with exercises you enjoyed before pregnancy. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly. If you haven’t been exercising, you may need to start slow and work up to 30 minutes daily, 5 days per week.
The following types of exercise have been studied extensively and found to be safe and beneficial:
- Riding a stationary bike
- Aerobic exercise
- Resistance exercises such as weights and elastic bands
- Stretching exercises
- Water aerobics
What exercises should you avoid during early pregnancy?
Check with your doctor if you have doubts about the safety of your workout routine. In general, avoid the following types of exercise during pregnancy:
- Contact sports that may cause you to get hit in the stomach
- Any exercise lying flat on your back after the first trimester
- Exercises that cause you to hit the water with a lot of force such as surfing, skiing, or diving
- Sky diving
- Scuba diving
- Exercising at high altitude if you aren’t used to it
- Hot yoga or other exercises that increase your body temperature too much
- Exercising on hot, humid days
- Activities with a lot of jerking, bouncing movements that may cause you to fall
Nothing can relieve the symptoms of morning sickness.
Should you change your workout routine during pregnancy?
Your body is changing a lot during pregnancy. You may need to modify your workouts to accommodate the following differences:
Your ligaments and joints are not as stable during pregnancy. The hormones you produce during pregnancy relax them, so you’re more likely to have an injury. Avoid high-impact activities.
As your pregnancy progresses, the increased weight shifts your center of gravity. Because you’re not as stable, you’re more prone to lose your balance and fall.
During pregnancy your need for oxygen increases. When you exercise, oxygen goes to your muscles and away from other parts of your body. This may mean it’s harder for you to do strenuous exercise.
Warning signs during exercise
Make sure you drink plenty of water while you’re exercising. Pay attention to how you feel while you’re exercising. If you have any of the following symptoms, stop exercising and call your doctor:
- Chest pain
- Fast heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Vaginal bleeding or leaking fluid
- Muscle weakness or trouble walking
- Swelling in your lower legs
- Regular, painful contractions
- No movement from your baby
When to avoid exercise
Exercising during pregnancy isn’t safe for all women. There are some conditions that may make exercise unsafe for you, including:
- Preterm labor
- Ruptured membranes
- Vaginal bleeding
- Being pregnant with multiple babies and having risks for preterm labor
- Gestational hypertension
- Cervical insufficiency, which is when your cervix opens too early
- Severe anemia
- Certain heart or lung conditions
- Placenta previa, which is when your placenta covers part of your cervix
Medically Reviewed on 9/7/2021
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Exercise During Pregnancy,” “Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period.”
Australian Journal of Primary Health: “Exercise in Pregnancy: Psychological Benefits.”
Behavioral Sleep Medicine: “Exercise during early pregnancy is associated with greater sleep continuity.”
March of Dimes: “Exercise During Pregnancy.”
Medicine: “Impact of exercise on maternal gestational weight gain.”