Is it safe to exercise in pregnancy?

It is safe and healthy to exercise if your pregnancy is uncomplicated. Being physically active during pregnancy has many benefits for you and your baby.

If you are feeling well, moderate activity will not harm you or your baby. This is any activity that makes you feel warm and breathe faster. You should be able to pass the ‘talk test’.

There are some situations where you should check with your doctor before exercising. For example, if you have a medical condition or you have had problems during a previous pregnancy. You may need to avoid or stop exercising, for example if you have vaginal bleeding.

Does exercise cause miscarriage or premature birth?

No, there is no evidence that physical activity or exercise causes miscarriage or premature birth. You may need to take extra care if you are at risk of premature labour and birth.

It is safe to exercise if your pregnancy is uncomplicated. Physical activity lowers the chance of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

Some people think their baby will be shaken around as they exercise. But your baby is well protected inside your womb. If you are worried or feel uncomfortable, you could try low-impact exercises like walking and swimming.

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I wanted to wrap myself in cotton wool after my miscarriage and I found it difficult when other mums talked about all the sport they still did - in the first trimester I wanted to protect my baby as best as I could. But perhaps if I’d been encouraged to go for walks and swims that would have helped my anxiety levels?

— Clio

If you have a high risk of premature birth

Talk to your doctor or midwife before starting an exercise plan if you have had a previous premature birth or been told you are at higher risk of premature labour.

Exercise alone does not cause premature labour and birth. But it could make an existing problem worse, such as a weak cervix.

Listen to your body. Stop exercising and speak to your midwife or GP if something does not feel right, stop exercising and speak to your midwife or GP.

Tips for exercising safely in pregnancy  

  • Speak to your maternity team if you are not sure how to exercise safely at different stages of your pregnancy.
  • Avoid suddenly starting intense exercises if you were not very active before your pregnancy. Read more about how to start being active during pregnancy.
  • Avoid activities that put you or your baby at risk, for example from falling or being hit in the tummy.
  • Check that your instructor is qualified to teach the exercise and has experience of teaching pregnant people.
  • Tell the instructor that you are pregnant before starting an exercise class.
  • Keep cool and drink plenty of water 
  • Have a healthy snack before you start exercising to keep your blood sugar levels up. 
  • Warm up and cool down before and after exercising, for example with walking and gentle stretches. 
  • If you have any unusual symptoms, stop exercising straight away and contact your doctor or midwife.

The talk test

The talk test is an easy way to tell if you are exercising at a safe level.

When you are doing an activity, check that you can have a conversation without getting out of breath. If you can only say a few words between breaths, ease off a bit.

You should not be able to sing without getting breathless. If you can sing easily then you can push yourself a little more if you want to.

Keeping cool during physical activity

Avoid hot or humid environments when you are being active, particularly in the first trimester. 

To avoid overheating:

  • Do not use sauna or steam rooms.
  • Avoid exercising in very hot temperatures.
  • Drink plenty of water or other fluids. Have a glass of water before you start and take a bottle of water with you.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes.
  • On hot days, go out in the early morning or evening when it is cooler, or plan some indoor activities, such as our easy pregnancy workout.

More information

The Active Pregnancy Foundation 
They support women to stay active throughout pregnancy and beyond. They provide expertise and advice to pregnant and postnatal women, as well as healthcare and fitness professionals.

  1.  DHSC (2020). Physical activity guidelines: UK Chief Medical Officers’ report. Department of Health and Social Care 
  2.  NHS. Exercise in pregnancy. (Page last reviewed: 15 March 2023. Next review due: 15 March 2026)
  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.  Yang X, Li H, Zhao Q et al (2022). Clinical Practice Guidelines That Address Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy: A Systematic Review. Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health. 2022; 67: 53-68.
  5.  Newton ER, May L (2017) Adaptation of Maternal-Fetal Physiology to Exercise in Pregnancy: The Basis of Guidelines for Physical Activity in Pregnancy. Clin Med Insights Womens Health. 2017; 10: 1179562X17693224.
Review dates
Reviewed: 29 May 2023
Next review: 29 May 2026