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Exercise During Pregnancy

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What Should a Pregnancy Exercise Program Consist Of?

For total fitness, a pregnancy exercise program should strengthen and condition your muscles.

Always begin by warming up for five minutes and stretching for five minutes. Include at least fifteen minutes of cardiovascular activity. Measure your heart rate at times of peak activity. Follow aerobic activity with five to ten minutes of gradually slower exercise that ends with gentle stretching.

Here are some basic exercise guidelines for pregnant women:

  • Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes as well as a good support bra.
  • Choose shoes that are designed for the type of exercise you do. Proper shoes are your best protection against injury.
  • Exercise on a flat, level surface to prevent injury.
  • Consume enough calories to meet the needs of your pregnancy (300 more calories per day than before you were pregnant) as well as your exercise program.
  • Finish eating at least one hour before exercising.
  • Drink water before, during, and after your workout.
  • After doing floor exercises, get up slowly and gradually to prevent dizziness.
  • Never exercise to the point of exhaustion. If you cannot talk normally while exercising, you are probably over-exerting yourself and should slow down your activity.

What Pregnancy Changes May Affect Exercise?

Physical changes during pregnancy create extra demands on your body. Keeping in mind the changes listed below, remember that you need to listen to your body and adjust your activities or exercise routine as necessary.

  • Your developing baby and other internal changes require more oxygen and energy.
  • Hormones produced during pregnancy cause the ligaments that support your joints to stretch, increasing the risk of injury.
  • The extra weight and the uneven distribution of your weight shift your center of gravity. The extra weight also puts stress on joints and muscles in the lower back and pelvic area and makes it easier for you to lose your balance.

Warning for Pregnant Women

Stop exercising and consult your health care provider if you:

  • Feel chest pain.
  • Have abdominal pain, pelvic pain, or persistent contractions.
  • Have a headache.
  • Notice an absence or decrease in fetal movement.
  • Feel faint, dizzy, nauseous, or light-headed.
  • Feel cold or clammy.
  • Have vaginal bleeding.
  • Have a sudden gush of fluid from the vagina or a trickle of fluid that leaks steadily.
  • Notice an irregular or rapid heartbeat.
  • Have sudden swelling in your ankles, hands, face, or calf pain.
  • Are short of breath.
  • Have difficulty walking.
  • Have muscle weakness.

How Soon Can I Exercise After Delivery?

It is best to ask your health care provider how soon you can begin your exercise routine after delivering your baby.

Although you may be eager to get in shape quickly, return to your pre-pregnancy fitness routines gradually. Follow your health care provider's exercise recommendations.

Most women can safely perform a low-impact activity one to two weeks after a vaginal birth (or three to four weeks after a cesarean birth). Do about half of your normal floor exercises and don't try to overdo it.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on May 16, 2012
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