If you have just discovered that you’re pregnant and have started planning the rest of your gestation period, you might be wondering about the right diet for pregnancy, checkups during pregnancy, vitamin and mineral supplements you need during pregnancy, etc. It’s very important to make sure that you include exercise in this plan, too.

Contrary to popular belief, exercise during pregnancy is not harmful. In fact, it’s a necessity, because staying physically active throughout your pregnancy will help you cope with your changing shape and weight. What’s more, it will help you through labour and get you back in shape faster after delivery. 

If you have been exercising, especially by engaging in activities like swimming, jogging, walking, dancing or yoga, you should continue to do so when you’re pregnant. If you did not exercise before your pregnancy, it’s best to do some exercises but nothing strenuous. 

There are some conditions in which exercise during pregnancy is not recommended. This is the reason why you should talk to your doctor about your exercise regimen during pregnancy. If your body gives warning signs like abdominal pain while you’re exercising, you should stop and evaluate your situation, and opt for an activity better suited to you. Read on to find out everything you need to know about exercise during pregnancy.

  1. How much exercise is safe during pregnancy?
  2. Benefits of exercise during pregnancy
  3. When to avoid exercise during pregnancy
  4. Exercise safety tips for pregnancy
  5. Exercises to avoid during pregnancy
  6. Exercises you should do during pregnancy
  7. Warning signs to stop exercising during pregnancy
  8. Takeaway for exercise during pregnancy

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, pregnant women should ideally get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. An aerobic exercise is one where the heart rate increases and the muscles of your body - especially, the arms and legs - move rhythmically. Doing such exercises at moderate intensity would just raise your heart rate a little and make you sweat. 

If you are new to exercise, you should start with 10 minutes of exercise per day, and slowly move up to 30 minutes of exercise for five days a week. Brisk walking, gardening and household chores can also be included in this regimen. If you were used to exercising before pregnancy, you should consult your obstetrician and continue with the rate and intensity of those exercises once the doctor has given their approval.

As your pregnancy progresses, you might feel more fatigued due to the growing size of your baby. It is therefore recommended that exercise frequencies and intensities should be reduced as your pregnancy progresses.

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Exercise generally improves the circulation of blood in the body, helps in muscle development, builds strength and endurance and makes you more flexible. You need all of these benefits when you’re pregnant, and after your delivery too because childcare can be very hectic, especially in the first few months. The following are the benefits of getting ample exercise during pregnancy:

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It’s important to discuss your exercise regimen during pregnancy with your obstetrician. This is because your obstetrician knows your medical history and reports, and will be able to tell you if you are at risk of certain conditions. If you do have a pre-existing condition or are at risk of developing a few medical conditions, your exercise routine will have to be tailored accordingly. In some cases, exercise will not be recommended to you at all. The following are some conditions in which you should not exercise during pregnancy:

Whether you’re new to exercise or an old-hand at it, there are a few things you must keep in mind while exercising during your pregnancy. Your exercise routine should be customised to your needs now: strenuous activity is not the answer here. Keep the following tips in mind before you plan an exercise routine for yourself:

  • Always warm-up before exercising. This will ensure your muscles don’t get a sudden strain. It’s equally important to cool down properly after exercising.
  • Never exhaust yourself by exercising. Exercise during pregnancy should make you feel more active rather than inducing fatigue and body pain.
  • Be active every day instead of exercising for a long duration and with high intensity on one or two days in the week. If you cannot manage 30 minutes of exercise every day, do so for 10 minutes - that’s better than going for no exercise at all.
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids. Maintain a proper prenatal diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, etc. You should have the appropriate amount of nutrition to exercise while sustaining the pregnancy.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise, especially if the weather is too hot. High body temperature during pregnancy can be harmful. Try natural remedies to reduce body temperature during pregnancy if you feel overheated at any point.
  • Wear a sports bra. During pregnancy, your breasts becomes bigger and fuller in preparation for lactation. The sports bra will give you ample support during exercise. Wear loose-fitted clothes during exercise, so that you don’t get overheated.
  • If you go to a gym, yoga class, Zumba or any other organized activity classes, make sure your trainer is qualified and knows that you are pregnant. Your trainer or teacher should also know how far along you are - how many weeks or months pregnant - so that your exercise routine can be tailored properly.
  • If you work out in a gym, take extra precautions to avoid gym infections as some of them can lead to fever during pregnancy, too.

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Some exercises and physical activities are not safe to try during pregnancy. You should avoid these to ensure your safety and that of your baby. Avoid the following during pregnancy:

  • Exercises which involve the risk of falling, like horse riding, skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics, cycling, etc. Falls can risk the health of your baby and should be avoided at all cost.
  • Contact exercises and sports, like boxing, kickboxing, judo, karate, football, basketball, volleyball, kabaddi, etc.
  • Sports where you can be hit by something, like squash, tennis, cricket, baseball, etc.
  • Exercises or yoga asanas where you have to lie on your stomach. Avoid these especially after the 16th week of pregnancy.
  • Scuba diving and skydiving, because your baby will then be at risk of decompression sickness and embolism.
  • Mountain climbing or travelling to altitudes over 2,500m above sea level, because your baby can get altitude sickness.

The focus of your exercise routine during pregnancy should be on the following:

  • Stomach and back-strengthening exercises: As your belly grows, you might experience pain if your abdominal muscles and bones are not strong enough.
  • Pelvic tilt exercises: To make your lower body stronger to support the weight of your growing belly.
  • Pelvic floor exercises: Your pregnancy and childbirth can put a lot of strain on the pelvic floor muscles. Keeping them strong with exercises like Kegel exercises will help in your delivery and aid in your recovery after that.

The following are some exercises you should definitely do during pregnancy.

  • Walking: Walking briskly will exercise all your joints and muscles.
  • Swimming: Water supports your weight even as your pregnancy progresses, so you can exercise without straining yourself.
  • Stationary cycling: As your body grows, it will be difficult to maintain balance on a cycle. Stationary cycling on a machine will help you maintain balance and regulate your speed and strain better.
  • Modified yoga: Yoga can help strengthen your body, maintain balance and improve your mood during pregnancy. However, some yoga postures should not be attempted while pregnant. And so, practising modified yoga is a better idea during pregnancy.
  • Modified pilates: Pilates can help build strength and improve balance, but not all types of pilates are recommended during pregnancy. Hence, you should try pilates modified to suit a pregnancy.
  • Any exercise or sport you were practising before getting pregnant: If you were already gyming, jogging or running before your pregnancy, you can continue with these if your obstetrician gives his or her approval, because your body is used to this level of exercise.

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a beginner, exercise during pregnancy can be difficult to manage. Your body knows when it has had enough, and if you exercise too hard, or if there’s an underlying condition you’re suffering from, your body will surely let you know. Stop exercising and visit a doctor immediately if your body gives you any of the following warning signs:

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Getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day, or 150 minutes of exercise per week, is recommended during pregnancy. Exercises like walking, swimming, stationary cycling and yoga are safe to do, but activities like contact sports, skydiving, scuba diving, etc., are best avoided. If you were already getting exercises like jogging, running, etc., before pregnancy you can continue with them if your doctor approves.

However, if you have certain complications, or are expecting twins, your doctor will ask you to avoid exercises. Getting the right nutrition during pregnancy is also very important. It’s very important to remember not to exhaust or strain yourself while exercising during pregnancy. If your body sends warning signs like vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain during pregnancy and cramping in the abdomen, stop exercising and visit the doctor immediately.


  1. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Exercise in pregnancy
  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. [internet], Bethesda (MD), USA; Exercise During Pregnancy
  3. American Pregnancy Association [Internet]. Irving, Texas, USA; Exercise During Pregnancy
  4. American Pregnancy Association [Internet]. Irving, Texas, USA; Effects of Exercise on Pregnancy
  5. Nemours Children’s Health System [Internet]. Jacksonville (FL): The Nemours Foundation; c2017. Exercising During Pregnancy
  6. Hinman, Sally K. et al. Exercise in pregnancy. Sports Health. 2015 Nov; 7(6): 527–531. PMID: 26502446
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