All about exercise in pregnancy

People may tell you that pregnancy is a good time to put your feet up. If your pregnancy is uncomplicated it is actually much healthier for you and your baby to stay active during your pregnancy.

Pregnant woman using exercise ball.

Now you’re pregnant, being active will boost your health – it’s good for your unborn baby, too. It can also help get your body ready for giving birth and being a new mum.

 

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Staying active:

  • helps you sleep better
  • reduces your likelihood of suffering from the common complaints of pregnancy, such as varicose veins, swollen feet and tiredness.
  • reduces your anxiety levels.

Getting active can be fun and it’s a good way to get together with friends and meet other mums-to-be. Some women worry that doing exercise during pregnancy might cause a miscarriage but there is no evidence for this. In fact, keeping fit will make your baby healthier.

If you already exercised before pregnancy, it’s safe and healthy to keep it up. As your bump grows, you will probably find that you slow down naturally.

If you weren’t very active before your pregnancy, don’t worry – this is a great time to start. You can build up your activity levels slowly and there are lots of small changes you can make to your lifestyle that will be good for you and your baby.

What does ‘being active’ in pregnancy mean?

Any activity that makes you feel warm and a little bit out of breath counts towards your exercise goal.

Walking briskly, going up and down stairs and putting a bit more energy into doing the housework or gardening all count. You don’t have to do organised exercise unless you want to.

The main rule is to be as active as possible – how you do it is up to you. As well as being more active in the things you do every day, you could try swimming, dancing, jogging and suitable exercise classes. 

Why is being active in pregnancy good for my baby?

  • Being active will reduce your likelihood of having pregnancy problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes, which means less risk for your baby.
  • Women who do weight-bearing exercise (exercise where your feet and legs support your weight, such as walking, some yoga, dancing and so on) during pregnancy can have a shorter labour time with fewer complications.

Why is being active in pregnancy good for me?

  • Being active makes you feel good, reduces stress and gives you more energy.
  • If you’re active, it’s easier to manage your weight during pregnancy and lose any extra weight after your baby is born.
  • Being active will help you sleep better at night.
  • You are less likely to suffer from the common aches and pains of pregnancy, such as varicose veins, tiredness or back pain.
  • Being active helps reduce constipation, which is a common pregnancy problem.
  • Exercise may help you cope with labour and delivery better.
  • It can reduce levels of anxiety and depression in pregnancy.

How can exercise boost my mood?

When you’re active, your body produces hormones called endorphins. Endorphins are linked to feelings of wellbeing and may make you less likely to feel anxious and depressed.

When you’re pregnant, your body is more sensitive to endorphins, so activity can boost your mood for longer. 

Is there any exercise I shouldn’t do now I’m pregnant?

It’s best to avoid sports where your bump could be hit, such as football, hockey and martial arts. Activities where you risk falling, such as skiing or horse riding, are best avoided too.

Exercise in a very hot environment, such as Bikram yoga, can cause overheating and so is not advisable. Find out more about the exercises to avoid.

What happens if I’m not very active during my pregnancy?

If you are sedentary (not active) in pregnancy you’re at risk of putting on too much weight.

You are at higher risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and varicose veins and you are more likely to have physical complaints such as shortness of breath and lower back pain. 

Keeping cool in pregnancy...

To avoid overheating:

  • Give the sauna and steam room a miss
  • Avoid exercising in very hot temperatures
  • Drink enough water or other fluids
  • Give yourself a few days to get used to the temperature if you’re spending time in a hot climate and you’re not used to it.

Start being active with our 10 tips for staying active in pregnancy.

Read more

Sources

1. Paisley TS, Joy EA, Price RJ Jr. (2003) ‘Exercise during pregnancy: a practical approach’, Current Sports Medicine Reports 2 (6): 325–30: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14583162 

2. RCOG (2006) Recreational Exercise and Pregnancy: Information for you, London, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/recreational-exercise-and-pregnancy.pdf

3. NHS Choices [accessed 23 February 2015] ‘Preventing osteoporosis’, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Osteoporosis/Pages/Prevention.aspx.

4. Clapp JF (1990) ‘The course of labor after endurance exercise during pregnancy’ American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 163 (6 Pt 1): 1799–805:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2256485

5. NHS Choices [accessed 23 February] ‘Preventing constipation’,http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Constipation/Pages/Prevention.aspx

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Last reviewed on February 1st, 2015. Next review date February 1st, 2018.

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