Exercise for a healthy pregnancy
There are many physical and mental benefits of an active pregnancy.
Even if you did no exercise before you got pregnant, it’s important to exercise now for a healthy pregnancy. Try to be active every day if you can. Even small things can make a difference, like 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 exercise safely.
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.
Begin with 15 minutes of non-stop activity three times a week. Increase this gradually to 30 minutes, 5 times a week. This can be as easy as going for a 30-minute walk.
If you can’t manage this much exercise, don’t worry – and don’t be put 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 thing is to stay active as much as possible, doing things that make your heart beat faster.
Any activity that increases your heart rate and breathing counts. For example, you could try walking to the shops or climbing the stairs instead of using the lift at work.
Find an activity you enjoy
Making your exercise routine fun, or asking your partner or friend to join you, will help you stick with it.
Set yourself targets and reward your efforts. You could make an exercise goal plan to work out what you’re going to do, when, and how you’ll treat yourself afterwards.
If it helps, try stopping yourself from watching TV or checking your phone until after you’ve been for a walk or done a quick and easy pregnancy workout at home.
You don’t have to be exhausted by exercise to benefit from it. The goal is to build up to and keep a good level of fitness throughout your pregnancy.
Safe exercise in pregnancy
- Check with your doctor or midwife if you plan to start a new form of exercise.
- Always stop if something hurts, even if you’re used to being active.
- If you join an exercise class that isn’t just for pregnant women, tell the teacher you’re pregnant so you can get 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.
- Avoid overheating.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Make sure you can pass the 'talk test'
What is the talk test?
The talk test 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 can only say a few words between breaths, ease off a bit.
Find out more about when to stop exercising in pregnancy.
What exercise can I do in each trimester of pregnancy?
You can start exercising at any time during your pregnancy. Even if you’re used to being active, you’ll need to adapt your activities a bit as your bump gets bigger.
Stop straight away if you feel any pain.
How active should I be in the first trimester?
During the first trimester (weeks 1 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. Read about exercises to avoid in pregnancy.
- If you’re not used to exercising, start gently and build up slowly.
- Ask your midwife, or check at your local leisure centre or gym for pregnancy exercise classes you can join.
- Try to avoid contact sports, such as boxing, rugby or football, and sports where you could fall, such as horse riding.
- If you enjoy cycling but are worried about falling off your bike, switch to indoor cycling.
How active should I be in the second trimester?
During the second trimester (weeks 14 to 27) your bump will be growing and it may be a good time to think about swapping high-impact exercises, like running and jumping, for low-impact activities, such as walking or swimming.
- 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, but 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 make you feel sick or dizzy.
How active should I be in the third trimester?
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 an active 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 extra effort 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 too hot and drink plenty of water.
Yoga is a great way to stay active and look after your wellbeing during and after pregnancy. There are some brilliant tutorials you can access online, just make sure they are specialised for pregnancy. The Yoga Midwife takes us through some simple poses to get you started.
We are all trying to cope with changes to our routine, including how we eat and exercise to look after ourselves. The important thing is trying to be as active as you can, without comparing yourself to others.
Pregnancy-safe, at-home workouts with no equipment needed! We asked Charlie, founder of Bumps and Burpees and personal trainer qualified in pre & post natal training to provide some simple exercises to do at home.
Stuck at your desk feeling uncomfortable and achy? Have a go at our simple pregnancy excises - 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.
- 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
- Kuhrt K, Harmon M, Hezelgrave N, Seed P, Shennan A (2018). Is recreational running associated with earlier delivery and lower birth weight in women who continue to run during pregnancy? An international retrospective cohort study of running habits of 1293 female runners during pregnancy. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine 2018;4:e000296. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2017-000296.
ℹLast reviewed on July 31st, 2018. Next review date July 31st, 2021.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 20 Apr 2017 - 16:36
Hello thank u for letting me know abt this I seriously i didn't know I çan exercise during pregnancy 'well I'm ñot exercise I just wake up in my room eat çleañ bath than sit watch TV I'm 9months now I'm starting having pain in my bum çan ťhis affect my unborn baby?
By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Apr 2017 - 16:45
Very glad that you have found this link. It is never too late to start to exercise and it will benefit both your physical and mental health. If you have really not done anything for months I would suggest that you start with walking. A walk in a park each day either when you are pregnant or when your baby is born will be very refreshing for you. And it's a chance to get out and meet people. So, good luck and start today.