What kind of exercise can I do during pregnancy?
If you exercised before you became pregnant, you can continue doing the same exercise now. The aim should be to keep your current level of fitness rather than trying to reach peak fitness.
If you were not very active before pregnancy, start off gently and avoid any exercises where you cannot talk without getting out of breath.
Read about staying safe when exercising and exercises to avoid in pregnancy.
Try to do some aerobic and strength exercises, as well as pelvic floor exercises.
Pelvic floor exercises
Your pelvic floor muscles stretch from your pubic bone at the front of your pelvis to the base of your spine at the back. They help with posture and support your bowel, womb and bladder.
It is important to exercise your pelvic floor muscles during and after pregnancy to keep them strong. This can lower the chance of leaking urine when you cough or sneeze (stress incontinence).
Doing pelvic floor exercises regularly can also help to reduce the length of labour.
You can exercise them at any time of day, wherever you are, without anybody knowing. You could try doing them every time you put the kettle on or have a drink.
Try these pelvic floor exercises.
Strength exercises involve working your muscles harder than usual. They include yoga, tai chi, working with weights, walking uphill and gardening.
Try to do some activities that strengthen your muscles twice a week.
Aerobic exercise is any activity that makes you breathe faster and works your heart and muscles harder. You should be able to have a conversation while you are exercising – if you cannot talk, slow down.
Aerobic exercise includes brisk walking, swimming, cycling and some classes that involve exercising to music.
If you are new to aerobic exercise, start off slowly and gradually build up to 150 minutes a week.
Read more about aerobic exercise in pregnancy.
Cycling is a great low-impact aerobic exercise, but is not risk-free. As your bump grows, your balance will change and you are more likely to fall off.
If you feel less stable on your bike or are worried about being able to respond to road conditions quickly, you may want to switch to a static exercise bike.
It is safe to use an exercise bike at home, in the gym or as part of a group session.
The aim of Pilates is to improve balance, strength, flexibility and posture. It also helps strengthen your pelvic floor. Pilates could help you get ready for labour and birth by helping you relax and improving strength and flexibility.
Start with basic Pilates exercises and check that your instructor has experience of teaching pregnant people.
Read more about Pilates in pregnancy.
If you ran or jogged before you got pregnant, it is safe and healthy to continue during your pregnancy as long as you feel comfortable. Your baby will not be harmed by the impact or the movement. Running is a great aerobic workout.
Read more about running in pregnancy.
Exercising in water supports your bump and will not strain your back. It is a great way to get your heart rate up without putting extra stress on your joints and ligaments.
Aquanatal classes are popular and can be a fun way to exercise in water and meet other parents-to-be.
Read more about swimming in pregnancy.
You may need to avoid breast stroke if you have pelvic girdle pain (PGP)/symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) as it can make the condition worse.
Tai chi is a low-impact exercise that involves slow stretching and balancing movements. It is good for building leg strength, balance and co-ordination.
It is a good idea to check with your midwife or doctor before starting tai chi. Try to find an instructor who is used to teaching pregnant people.
Walking is an easy and safe way of keeping fit during pregnancy. You can do it for the whole 9 months if you feel comfortable.
Walking is free and easy to fit into your daily life. If you are not used to exercising, walking is a great way to start.
Read more about walking in pregnancy.
Yoga focuses on mental and physical wellbeing. It uses a series of body positions (called postures) and breathing exercises.
Look for a pregnancy yoga class, which uses relaxation and breathing techniques with postures that are adapted for pregnancy. Avoid classes that involve exercising in high temperatures.
Read more about yoga in pregnancy.
Exercising at home
If you cannot get out or you’re short of time, there are plenty of exercises you can do at home or at work that you can fit around your daily activities.
Look for pregnancy workout DVDs, online videos or try our easy home or office workout. You could try to be more active around the house, for example by putting extra energy into the housework or gardening.
If you go out to work, can you use your commute to exercise by getting off the bus or train a stop early and walking the rest of the way?
Pregnancy exercise classes
It is not always easy to find a specific pregnancy class or instructor, so here are some tips on how to find one:
- ask your midwife, GP or the receptionist at your surgery or antenatal clinic
- join Facebook groups or online forums for mums in your local area and ask about local classes or instructors
- ask the instructors at your usual class or gym if they can refer you to someone
- contact your local council or leisure centre and ask about local services. Even if you can’t see anything on their website, give them a call and they might know somewhere nearby that offers sessions
- look for posters in local maternity/baby stores or at community centres and ask other pregnant people or mums you bump into.
Always tell your instructor about your pregnancy, including any complications or medical conditions.
If you join a general class rather than a pregnancy-specific class, ask the instructor if they can advise you on any exercises that you should not do or ways to adapt exercises for you. If they cannot do this, look for a different class.
- ACOG (2020). Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. Committee Opinion Number 804. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2020/04/physical-activity-and-exercise-during-pregnancy-and-the-postpartum-period
- DHSC (2020). Physical activity guidelines: UK Chief Medical Officers’ report. Department of Health and Social Care https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/physical-activity-guidelines-uk-chief-medical-officers-report
- NHS. Exercise in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/exercise/ (Page last reviewed: 15 March 2023. Next review due: 15 March 2026)
- POGP (2018) The Pelvic Floor Muscles - a Guide for Women. Pelvic Obstetric & Gynaecological Physiotherapy https://pogp.csp.org.uk/publications/pelvic-floor-muscle-exercises-women
- Bø K, Artal R, Barakat R et al (2018) Exercise and pregnancy in recreational and elite athletes: 2016/2017 evidence summary from the IOC expert group meeting, Lausanne. Part 5. Recommendations for health professionals and active women. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2018; 52: 1080-1085.
- NHS. How to improve your strength and flexibility. www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/strength-and-flexibility-exercises/how-to-improve-strength-flexibility/ (Page last reviewed: 18 November 2022. Next review due: 18 November 2025)
- Mottola MF, Davenport MH, Ruchat S et al (2018) 2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2018; 52: 1339-1346.
- Berghella V, Saccone G. (2017) Exercise in pregnancy! Am J Obstet Gynecol 2017; 216: 335–7.
- Smith L (2022) Can Pilates help strengthen your pelvic floor during pregnancy? Patient patient.info/news-and-features/can-pilates-help-strengthen-your-pelvic-floor-during-pregnancy
- Pelvic Partnership. Exercise and PGP. http://pelvicpartnership.org.uk/treatment-exercise-and-pgp/ (Page last reviewed: 2017)
- NCCIH. Tai Chi: What You Need To Know. www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tai-chi-what-you-need-to-know (Page last updated: March 2022)