Is it OK to Exercise During Pregnancy?
For most pregnant women, exercise is a great way to feel better and help prepare the body for labor. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week for healthy pregnant women who aren't already highly active or used to doing vigorous activities. For example, you could do this by walking briskly for half an hour each weekday at lunchtime.
“Moderate-intensity” activities are those during which you can still have a normal conversation. They can be:
- low-impact: gentle fluid movements that are easy on the joints
- high-impact: jumping movements that are harder on the joints. Most women with healthy pregnancies can do some high-impact activities (like jogging or aerobics) that stay at a moderate intensity, as there is no evidence that this causes problems for the baby. High-impact exercise puts a lot of strain on the body, though, and can be uncomfortable during pregnancy, so slow down if you feel any discomfort.
High-impact exercises feel like a great workout. But low-impact exercises can still increase your heart rate and oxygen intake while helping you avoid sudden or jarring actions that can stress the joints, bones, and muscles.
If you were very active or did intense aerobic activities before your pregnancy, you might be able to continue your exercise routine if your doctor says it's safe for you and your baby. This might change as the pregnancy progresses. Discuss the pros and cons of your preferred exercises with your doctor.
What Exercises and Activities Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?
In general, it's best to avoid some types of exercises and activities during pregnancy, such as:
- weight training and heavy lifting (after the first trimester)
- sit-ups or other exercises that require lying on the back (after the first trimester)
- contact sports where there is risk of getting hit in the belly (like hockey or basketball)
- scuba diving
- anything that would cause a lot of up and down movement, such as horseback riding
- anything with an increased risk for falling, like gymnastics, skiing, or skating
- activities that cause your body temperature to get very high, like hot yoga
Some conditions can make exercise during pregnancy unsafe, such as heart or lung disease, being pregnant with multiples, high blood pressure, or severe anemia.
What Else Should I Know?
Good ways to stay fit during pregnancy include walking, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, and Pilates. But be sure to talk to your doctor before starting — or continuing — any exercise routine during pregnancy.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2023