At what stage should I stop exercising?

As long as you feel comfortable and you have no medical issues in pregnancy, you can carry on exercising right up until your baby is born.

Pregnant woman doing leg stretches on exercise mat.

One study also showed that women who were previously active and stopped exercising before their second trimester had longer labour times and more interventions during delivery than those who kept exercising to the end of pregnancy.

It is likely that you will slow down naturally in the third trimester as your body gets bigger, but as long as you continue to exercise gently you will feel the benefits. You are:

  • more likely to sleep better
  • less likely to feel anxious
  • less likely to suffer from the common aches and pains of pregnancy
  • less likely to suffer from gestational diabetes or high blood pressure.

You should aim to stay as fit as you were rather than over-exerting yourself or trying to achieve peak fitness. Use the ‘talk test’ to make sure you’re not overdoing it – you shouldn’t be so out of breath that you can’t hold a conversation.

  • Don’t overheat – drink water regularly and don’t exercise in very hot temperatures (unless you’re used to it).
  • Don’t exercise on your back after 16 weeks.

Medical reasons to stop exercising in pregnancy

Whatever activity you’re doing and whatever stage of your pregnancy you’re at, stop at once if:

  • you’re having trouble catching your breath
  • you feel dizzy
  • you have chest pain
  • your heart is beating in an irregular way (palpitations)
  • you can feel tightenings in your tummy
  • your waters (the liquid around your baby) are leaking
  • you have any bleeding from your vagina
  • you feel pain around your tummy or pelvis
  • you are exhausted
  • you have a bad headache
  • your muscles feel weak
  • you have a pain or swelling in the lower part of your leg
  • your baby isn’t moving as much as usual.

Even if you don’t have any of these symptoms, if you feel unwell, uncomfortable or just ‘not right’ and you’re worried, stop exercising and talk to your doctor or midwife.

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Sources

  1. RCOG (2006) Exercise in Pregnancy: Statement No. 4, London, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/statements/statement-no-4.pdf
  2. 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
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Last reviewed on April 1st, 2014. Next review date April 1st, 2017.

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