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Exercise in pregnancy

It is important to stay active during pregnancy for you and your baby. Find out how to exercise safely and what to avoid doing.

Being physically active is a great way to help you stay well during pregnancy. It can also help you cope with labour. If your pregnancy is uncomplicated, being as active as possible will benefit you and your baby.

What does ‘being active’ in pregnancy mean?

You do not have to join a gym or do an organised exercise class to stay active unless you want to. All types of physical activity, including walking, gardening and swimming, will help you stay fit and well during and after pregnancy.

During any physical activity, you should be able to pass the ‘talk test’. This means that you can still have a conversation while exercising. If talking makes you out of breath, try to slow down.

Benefits of being active in pregnancy:

  • You are less likely to get lower back pain.

  • It helps you keep fit. 

  • It improves your mental wellbeing

  • It may help you sleep better.  

  • You may be more likely to have a vaginal birth, if this is what you want. 

  • You may recover from the birth more quickly.

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Taking the dog out for a walk during my pregnancy really made me feel like I was doing something beneficial for myself and my baby. Being outside in the fresh air felt good for my physical and mental health.

— Chloe

Exercise and weight gain in pregnancy

There is no recommended amount of weight you should put on during pregnancy. Everyone is different. The most important thing is to keep your weight gain to a safe and healthy level for you and your baby. Speak to your midwife if you have any questions about this.

Staying active can help you control the amount of weight you gain during pregnancy. 

Find out more about healthy weight gain in pregnancy.

Exercising safely during pregnancy

It is safe to be physically active if you are not having any pregnancy complications

You may need to take extra care if you have a medical condition or health problem, or if you had problems during a previous pregnancy. Your doctor or midwife can advise you on which activities are safe for you. 

There are some situations where you should avoid exercise or stop physical activity. For example, if you have vaginal bleeding

If your pregnancy is uncomplicated, physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight or premature birth.  

Read more about exercising safely during pregnancy.

Getting active during pregnancy

Do not worry if you were not very active before your pregnancy. This is a great time to start. There are lots of small changes you can make to your lifestyle to help you move around more. 

Getting active can be fun and a good way to get together with friends and meet other parents-to-be. Find out more about the kinds of exercise you can do during your pregnancy.

If you are new to exercise, it is important to build up slowly. Try to:

  • be active whenever you can, for example, by walking or taking the stairs. If you are sitting down at work or watching tv, try to get up regularly to make a drink or have a walk.

  • avoid vigorous activities where you cannot talk without getting out of breath.

  • try to be active for at least 150 minutes every week, or 20 to 30 minutes a day.

  • do some activities that strengthen your muscles twice a week.

You will probably feel more comfortable when you are exercising if you wear a well-fitting, supportive bra and shoes that support your ankles. Low heels or no heels are best.

You might want to set yourself targets and rewards. Our exercise goal plan helps you work out what you are going to do, when, and how you will treat yourself afterwards.

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As an older mum of 4 I tried to keep as active as possible as I know that it helps with labour. When I went out and stretched my legs for 15-30 minutes, it really lifted my mood and made me feel positive and motivated!

— Natalie

If you were active before your pregnancy

If you exercised regularly before pregnancy, it is safe and healthy to keep it up if your pregnancy is uncomplicated.  As your bump grows, you will probably find that you slow down naturally. 

You may need to change your pre-pregnancy exercises to suit your comfort levels and avoid injury. Listen to your body and make sure you do not push yourself too hard.  

Long or vigorous exercise sessions can lead to low blood sugar levels. To avoid this, eat before exercising or try taking it a bit easier. 

Find out more about doing different types of exercise during pregnancy.

Activities to avoid during pregnancy

It is important to avoid contact sports where your bump could be hit, such as football, rugby, hockey and martial arts. You should also avoid activities where you risk falling, like skiing or horse riding.

Find out more about the exercises to avoid when you're pregnant.

More information

The Active Pregnancy Foundation supports people to stay active during and after pregnancy.

NHS has information about exercising during pregnancy on its and Start for Life websites.

  1.  NHS. Exercise in pregnancy. (Page last reviewed: 15 March 2023. Next review due: 15 March 2026)
  2.  DHSC (2020). Physical activity guidelines: UK Chief Medical Officers’ report. Department of Health and Social Care  
  3.  ACOG (2020). Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. Committee Opinion Number 804. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 
  4.  Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine UK. Moving Medicine: Pregnancy – Improves fitness. (Accessed September 2022)
  5.  Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine UK. Moving Medicine: Pregnancy – Improves mental wellbeing. (Accessed September 2022)
  6.  Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R, et al. (2016) Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 2—the effect of exercise on the fetus, labour and birth. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2016; 50: 1297-1305.
  7.  Corrigan L, Moran P, McGrath N et al. (2022) The characteristics and effectiveness of pregnancy yoga interventions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2022; 22(1): 250.
  8.  Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine UK. Moving Medicine: Pregnancy – Helps control weight gain. (Accessed September 2022)
  9.  Mottola MF, Davenport MH, Ruchat S-M et al. (2018) No. 367-2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy. Joint SOGC/CSEP Clinical practice guideline. 2018; 40(11): 1528-1537.
  10.  Magro-Malosso ER, Saccone G, Di Mascio D et al (2017) Exercise during pregnancy and risk of preterm birth in overweight and obese women: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 2017; 96: 263-73.
  11.  Gov.UK Physical activity guidelines: pregnancy and after childbirth
  12.  NICE (2021). Scenario: Antenatal care - uncomplicated pregnancy: NICE Clinical Knowledge Summary. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence