Exercise for a healthy pregnancy
Even if you did no exercise before pregnancy, it’s important to do exercise for a healthy pregnancy. You should try to be active every day if you can. Even small things can make a difference, such as walking to your local shops instead of driving or getting the bus.
Ideally, it’s good to aim for half an hour of activity every day but you don’t have to do it all at once. If you weren’t very active before you were pregnant, try to do safe exercise. Start off with 15 minutes of non-stop activity three times a week.
Gradually increase this to 30 minutes five times a week – this can be as easy as going for a half-hour walk.
If you can’t manage this much exercise, though, don’t worry – and don’t let it put you off. Any amount of activity is better than none.
If it helps, just think about being active every day rather than worrying about times and types of exercise. The main rule is to stay active as much as possible, doing things that make your heart beat faster.
You don’t have to be sporty to be active and you don’t need to join your local gym or exercise classes – just small changes in your daily routine can really help.
Anything that increases your heartbeat and breathing counts: try walking to the shops or climbing the stairs instead of using the lift at work, for example.
Being active in pregnancy doesn’t have to be boring!
Make it fun by asking a friend to join in, or by doing it to music. Set yourself targets and reward your efforts. You could use this goal plan to work out what you’re going to do and when.
If it helps, try stopping yourself from watching your favourite TV show or checking your phone until you’ve been for a walk or done a short pregnancy workout at home.
You don’t have to be exhausted by exercise to benefit from it. The goal is to develop and keep a good fitness level throughout your pregnancy – not train for a marathon!
Pregnancy exercise: the talk test
This is an easy way to tell if you’re doing the right amount of activity while pregnant and getting the most benefit from safe exercise.
You should be doing enough to make you breathe deeply but you shouldn’t have to gasp for breath.
If you can say a whole sentence before having to take a breath, you’re getting your activity level about right. If you only say a few words between breaths, or can’t sing along to your favourite songs, ease off a bit.
Safe exercise in pregnancy
- Check with your doctor or midwife if you plan to start a new form of exercise, and always stop if something hurts, even if you’re used to being active.
- If you join a fitness class that isn’t just for pregnant women, tell the teacher you’re pregnant so you can have the advice you need.
- If you did a lot of exercise before you were pregnant, for example if you were a runner, you can keep it up as long as you feel comfortable. But, avoid overheating and drink plenty of water.
What exercise can I do at different stages of my pregnancy?
You can start exercising at any time during your pregnancy. Whether or not you’re used to being active, you’ll need to adapt your activities a bit as your bump gets bigger. And remember: you should stop straight away if you feel any pain.
Being active in the first three months
During the first trimester (weeks one to 13) you can keep doing whatever you were doing before you became pregnant, unless there’s a risk that you could be hit, get too hot or have a fall.
- If you’re not used to exercise, start gently and build up slowly.
- Ask your midwife or check at your local leisure centre for pregnancy exercise classes you can join.
- Steer clear of contact sports, such as boxing or football, and sports where you could fall, such as horse riding.
- If you enjoy cycling but are worried about falling off your bike, you could try indoor cycling.
Being active in the middle three months of pregnancy
During the second trimester (weeks 14 to 27) your bump will be growing and it may be a good time to think about swapping low-impact activities, such as walking or swimming, for any high-impact exercises you’ve been doing, such as running and jumping.
- If you ran regularly before your pregnancy, it’s fine to carry on if you’re comfortable but talk to your doctor or midwife if you’re worried.
- Yoga, Pilates and aqua aerobics classes are all great. If they’re not pregnancy classes, it’s important to tell the teacher you’re pregnant.
- Don’t lie on your back for longer than a few minutes. It could affect your blood supply and could make you feel sick or dizzy. It could even make you faint.
Being active in the last three months
In the third trimester (weeks 28 to 40) you can carry on exercising as long as you feel well and comfortable. If you feel okay, you can stay active right up to the birth of your baby.
- Keep doing low-impact activities, such as walking and swimming.
- You can do gentle stretches to reduce aches and pains.
Top tips for activity in pregnancy
- Try to make being active part of your everyday life.
- If you’re not usually very active, build up gradually.
- Go walking or swimming with a friend.
- Get off the bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way.
- Play your music and put some oomph into the housework.
- Take the stairs instead of using the lift. If you’re going up lots of floors, get off a floor or two early.
- Try a pregnancy exercise class.
- Avoid getting overheated and drink plenty of water.
Stuck at your desk feeling uncomfy and achy? Have a go at our simple exercises - you don’t even need to leave your desk.
Many people find it helps to set exercise goals to help them stay fit during pregnancy.
Most types of exercise are fine even if you are overweight. Being active during your pregnancy is safe and healthy for you and your baby.
Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) is a fairly common pregnancy condition. It is caused by the way pelvic joints move during pregnancy and the symptoms can range from mild to being so severe that crutches are needed.
Yes it is. In fact, if your pregnancy is uncomplicated, it is safer to exercise than not to as it brings down the risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
Questions about exercise in pregnancy
- 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
ℹLast reviewed on February 1st, 2015. Next review date February 1st, 2018.