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Exercise During Pregnancy

Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy and feel your best. Regular exercise during pregnancy can improve your posture and decrease some common discomforts such as backaches and fatigue. There is evidence that physical activity may prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), relieve stress, and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery.

If you were physically active before your pregnancy, you should be able to continue your activity in moderation. Don't try to exercise at your former level; instead, do what's most comfortable for you now. Low impact aerobics are encouraged versus high impact. 

The pregnant competitive athlete should be closely followed by an obstetrician.

If you have never exercised regularly before, you can safely begin an exercise program during pregnancy after consulting with your health care provider, but do not try a new, strenuous activity. Walking is considered safe to initiate when pregnant.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most if not all days of the week, unless you have a medical or pregnancy complication.

Who Should Not Exercise During Pregnancy?

If you have a medical problem, such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes, exercise may not be advisable. Exercise may also be harmful if you have a pregnancy-related condition such as:

  • Bleeding or spotting
  • Low placenta
  • Threatened or recurrent miscarriage
  • Previous premature births or history of early labor
  • Weak cervix

Talk with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program. Your health care provider can also give you personal exercise guidelines, based on your medical history.

What Exercises Are Safe During Pregnancy?

Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, as long as you exercise with caution and do not overdo it.

The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, step or elliptical machines, and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified aerobics instructor). These activities carry little risk of injury, benefit your entire body, and can be continued until birth.

Tennis and racquetball are generally safe activities, but changes in balance during pregnancy may affect rapid movements. Other activities such as jogging can be done in moderation, especially if you were doing them before your pregnancy. You may want to choose exercises or activities that do not require great balance or coordination, especially later in pregnancy.

To learn strength and toning exercises that are safe to do during pregnancy, see Sample Exercises.

What Exercises Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?

There are certain exercises and activities that can be harmful if performed during pregnancy. They include:

  • Holding your breath during any activity.
  • Activities where falling is likely (such as skiing and horseback riding).
  • Contact sports such as softball, football, basketball, and volleyball.
  • Any exercise that may cause even mild abdominal trauma such as activities that include jarring motions or rapid changes in direction.
  • Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing, or running.
  • Deep knee bends, full sit-ups, double leg raises, and straight-leg toe touches.
  • Bouncing while stretching.
  • Waist-twisting movements while standing.
  • Heavy exercise spurts followed by long periods of no activity.
  • Exercise in hot, humid weather.
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