An easy pregnancy workout

These simple pregnancy-friendly exercises do not take very long to do and you can fit them into your everyday life, at work or at home.

If you are not very active, these exercises are a great way to get started. Try to do them for a total of 15 minutes at first and build up from there. Add in some walking, housework or swimming and you will really start to feel the benefits.

Read more about what kind of exercises you can do in pregnancy

Check with your doctor or midwife if you have any pregnancy complications and you are not sure which exercises are safe to do. Your midwife or maternity physiotherapist may give you exercises to help if you have separation of the abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) in pregnancy. 

Exercising your pelvic floor muscles and standing tall, with good posture, will also help.

Tightening your abdominal muscles

It is important to pull in your abdominal (tummy) muscles before you start any exercise or strenuous movement. Tightening these muscles helps to protect your back and tummy from injury. It also helps with good posture.

Here’s how:

  1. Imagine a thread attached to your belly button on the inside.
  2. Pull the thread towards your spine.
  3. If you put your finger on your belly button and tighten your tummy muscles up and inwards, you will feel your belly button move upwards slightly and the muscles around it will tighten.
  4. Keep breathing normally.
  5. Pull in your tummy muscles whenever you sit down, stand up, lift, carry, walk or do any kind of exercise.

Leg stretches

Try these while you’re doing the washing up or waiting for the kettle to boil.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your toes, knees and hips facing forwards.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles and slowly lift yourself up onto your toes, feeling the muscles in your lower legs working.
  3. You can lightly hold onto a worktop or the back of a chair to help you balance.
  4. Hold for a count of 3 and slowly lower yourself back down.

Repeat 15 to 20 times, rest for 30 seconds, and then do another 15 to 20.

Leg extensions

These seated leg extensions are great for the muscles at the front of your thighs. You can do them at work or at home.

  1. Sit on a sturdy chair, feet hip-width apart and your toes, knees and hips facing forwards, with your knees over your feet.
  2. Keep your spine straight and rest your hands on your thighs.
  3. Put your shoulders back and tighten your abdominal muscles.
  4. Lift one knee to a comfortable height, keeping the leg bent.
  5. Keeping your thigh lifted, slowly straighten your leg as much as you can, tightening your thigh muscles gently at the top.
  6. Then slowly return your leg back to the bent position while keeping your thigh lifted.

Do this 8 to 12 times on one side and then swap to the other leg. This is a good activity to do if your work means you are sitting at a desk all day.

Thigh toners

  1. Stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart and your feet facing forwards.
  2. Raise your arms up in front of you to shoulder height, this will help you balance.
  3. Tighten your abdominal muscles, then slowly bend your knees as you push your bottom slightly backwards, keeping both feet flat on the floor.
  4. Try to come down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, but only come down as far as feels comfortable, and where you know you can get back up!

Repeat this 6 times.

As your bump grows you might want to place a sturdy chair in front or on either side of you to hold onto and help you balance.

You can also do these leaning on a pregnancy or birthing ball placed behind your back and against a wall.

Arm raises, part 1

Try these in the kitchen where you have tins, bottles or bags you can lift. Or use light hand weights. The weights should be light enough for you to do this exercise 15 times without your arms becoming too tired or shaky to carry on.

  1. Get two of the same item from your cupboard – bags of sugar, tins of beans or bottles of water would work.
  2. Hold one in each hand with your arms by your sides and your palms facing upwards.
  3. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart and your toes, knees and hips facing forwards.
  4. Tighten your abdominal muscles, then slowly tense the muscles in the top of your arms and bring your hands up to touch the front of your shoulders.
  5. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides.
  6. Keep your abdominal muscles tightened and slowly lower your hands back down to the starting position.

Do this 12 to 15 times, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat.

Arm raises, part 2

Holding your two items in your hands, stand tall with your shoulders back and down and your arms by your side.

  1. Tighten your abdominal muscles and, with your palms facing downwards and your arms straight, slowly lift both arms up to the side until your hands are at shoulder height.
  2. Slowly lower them back down.
  3. Then lift both arms to the front, again with the arms straight and just as far as shoulder height.
  4. Slowly lower them back down.

Repeat the side and front versions 6 to 10 times each, rest for 30 seconds and repeat.

Tummy toner, part 1

Strong tummy muscles will help support your growing baby, reduce backache and help you during the ‘pushing’ part of labour.

  1. Pull your tummy in towards your spine.
  2. Hold for a few seconds, then release gently.
  3. Make sure you breathe normally while you are doing this exercise and try to do it as often as you can during the day.
  4. Use it when you bend or lift things to keep your back supported.

You can do this exercise in any position, but avoid lying flat on your back for long periods, especially after 16 weeks. This because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart, which can make you feel faint.

Tummy toner, part 2

  1. Get down on your hands and knees, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Face your fingers forwards.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles.
  3. Slowly raise your back up towards the ceiling, curling like a cat. Relax your head and do not lock your elbows. 
  4. Hold or a few seconds then slowly return to your starting position.
  5. Be careful not to hollow your back – keep it flat and straight.
  6. Repeat slowly 10 times.

Make sure you do not stretch your back too much. If it feels uncomfortable, ease off a bit.

Read more about what kind of exercises you can do in pregnancy.

  1.  Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (2020) Separation of the abdominal muscles 
  2.  POGP (2021) Fit for Pregnancy. Pelvic Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy 
  3.  NHS Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. Caring for your body in pregnancy. (Page last reviewed: Nov 2020. Next review due: Nov 2022)
  4.  NHS. Exercise in pregnancy. (Page last reviewed: 15 March 2023. Next review due: 15 March 2026)
Review dates
Reviewed: 29 May 2023
Next review: 29 May 2026