What kind of exercises can I do?

Exercising during your pregnancy is safe and healthy. You can do most types of exercise in pregnancy, including running, pilates, weights, yoga and swimming.

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.

Exercise and activities you can do

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise is any activity that makes your heart beat faster. This includes brisk walking, swimming and various classes that you do to music.

If you’re new to aerobic exercise, start off slowly and gradually build up to a maximum of four half-hour sessions a week. 

Read more about aerobic exercise in pregnancy

Cycling

Cycling is a great low-impact aerobic exercise. As your bump grows, however, your sense of balance changes, and this could mean you are more likely to fall off. 

If you’re used to cycling, you should be safe to carry on, but if you begin to feel less stable than usual it may be best to stay off your bike until after your baby is born.

Using a stationary exercise bike in the gym or as part of a group session is fine.

Pilates

The aim of Pilates is to improve balance, strength, flexibility and posture. It could help your body cope with carrying the extra weight of your growing baby as well as preparing you for childbirth and recovering afterwards.

Read more about Pilates in pregnancy

Running

If you’re already a runner or jogger, it’s safe and healthy to continue during your pregnancy as long as you feel okay. Your baby will not be harmed by the impact or the movement. Running is a great aerobic workout.

Read more about running in pregnancy

Strength exercises

Strength training exercises are exercises that make your muscles stronger. They include swimming, working with weights, walking uphill and digging the garden.

It’s a good way to keep your muscles toned during pregnancy. 

Read more about strength training in pregnancy

Swimming

Exercising in water supports your bump and won’t strain your back. It’s a great way to get your heart rate up without putting extra stress on your joints and ligaments. 

Aquanatal classes are popular and fun and a good way to meet other mums-to-be.

Read more about swimming in pregnancy

Walking

Walking is a great basis for pregnancy fitness and you can do it for the whole nine months if you feel comfortable.

Walking is free and it’s available on your doorstep. If you’re not used to doing exercise, walking is a great place to start. 

Read more about walking in pregnancy

Yoga

Yoga is an activity that focuses on mental and physical wellbeing. It uses a series of body positions (called postures) and breathing exercises. Pregnancy yoga uses relaxation and breathing techniques with postures that are adapted for pregnancy.

Read more about yoga in pregnancy

Download and print your weekly exercise goal plan

Can I work out at home while I’m pregnant?

If you can’t get out or you’re short of time, there are plenty of exercises you can do at home or at work and that you can fit around your daily activities.

Look for pregnancy workout DVDs, try our easy home or office workout, or look at ways that you can be more active around the house – putting extra energy into the housework or gardening, for example.

If you work, can you use your commute to exercise, by getting of the bus or train a stop early and walking the rest of the way?

What are pelvic floor exercises?

Pregnancy and birth weaken your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are located in your pelvis and go from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. They are shaped like a hammock and protect your bowels, womb and bladder.

Your pelvic floor muscles support these organs when you jump, sneeze or cough, lift heavy things, and push your baby out in the second stage of labour.

When you’re pregnant you should make sure you exercise the muscles of your pelvic floor. By keeping them strong you can help decrease the risk of becoming incontinent (pee leaking out accidentally).

You can exercise them at any time of day, wherever you are, without anybody knowing you’re doing the exercises. 

Where can I find pregnancy exercise classes?

It’s not always easy to find a suitable session or instructor while you are pregnant, 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 specifically for mums in your local area and ask for recommendations 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 women or mums you bump into.
  • Many instructors are members of the Register of Exercise Professionals, and you can search for those who are qualified to teach pregnant women.

Always make sure you 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 are able to advise you on any exercises that you shouldn’t do or ways to adapt exercises for you. If they aren’t able to do this, you should look for a different session.

Things to be aware of

There are a few things to be aware of:

  • Be careful if you are doing exercises where you could lose your balance, such as cycling, horse riding or skiing.
  • Avoid contact sports where there is a risk of being hit, such as kickboxing, football, judo or squash (though if you’re in a team you can still continue to do any non-contact training).
  • Don’t exercise at high altitudes without acclimatising.
  • Don’t exercise for more than 45 minutes at a time.
  • If you have any unusual symptoms, stop exercising and contact your doctor or midwife immediately.
  • Don’t let yourself get too hot – drink lots of water, don’t over-exercise (see below) and don’t exercise in a very hot, humid climate without giving your body a few days to get used to it.
  • Don’t do exercises in which you lie flat on your back after 16 weeks

If you take care with these points you can safely continue to stay fit through your pregnancy and beyond.

If you did not exercise before getting pregnant, it is safe and healthy to start now. Start with 15 minutes of exercise three times a week and increase it gradually to 30-minute sessions four days a week or every day.

Exercise doesn’t have to mean planned sessions – there are some ideas here for everyday activity that can help boost your health and that of your baby.

Don’t overdo it!

Avoid pushing yourself too hard as this can make you overheat, which is not good for your baby. You should aim to work hard enough so that you breathe more deeply and your heart beats faster, but not so hard that you can’t hold a conversation or are gasping for breath.

If you’re doing an exercise class or working out in the gym, tell the teacher or gym instructor you’re pregnant and ask their advice about checking your heart rate.

Heart rate to aim for when doing aerobic exercise in pregnancy

Your Age Heart Rate (beats/minute)
Less than 20 years 140-155
20-29 years 135-150
30-39 years 130-145
Over 40 years 125-140

Read more

  • Woman stretching.

    Making a plan for exercising in pregnancy

    Many people find it helps to set exercise goals to help them stay fit during pregnancy.

  • Pregnant woman on cross-trainer.

    Is it safe to exercise in pregnancy?

    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.

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    Exercise FAQs

    Questions about exercise in pregnancy

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    Walking and pregnancy

    Walking is a safe and simple way to stay active during pregnancy. It’s the perfect activity to start with if you’re not used to exercise.

  • Pregnant woman participating in an aerobics class.

    Aerobics in pregnancy

    Aerobics is a kind of exercise that combines aerobic exercise with stretching and strength training. It’s usually done to music and is a safe exercise to do in pregnancy. Aerobics classes are a good way to stay active and can help you to have a healthy pregnancy.

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    Making a plan for exercising in pregnancy

    Many people find it helps to set exercise goals to help them stay fit during pregnancy.

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    I'm overweight. What exercise can I do?

    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.

  • Pregnant woman with yoga mat and water bottle in park.

    Can I exercise with SPD?

    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.

  • Pregnant woman on cross-trainer.

    Is it safe to exercise in pregnancy?

    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.

  • 'FAQ' written in pink chalk on black board.

    Exercise FAQs

    Questions about exercise in pregnancy

  • Pregnant woman doing pelvic floor exercises.

    Pelvic floor exercises

    Doing pelvic floor exercises regularly will help prevent you accidentally leaking wee when you cough or strain, both during your pregnancy and after your baby is born.

  • Pregnant woman on exercise ball.

    An easy pregnancy workout

    These simple exercises don’t take very long to do and you can fit them into your everyday life, whether you’re at work or at home.

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    When to stop exercising in pregnancy

    If you're having a normal pregnancy you are safe to stay active comfortably right up to the end of your pregnancy.

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    10 tips for staying active in pregnancy

    Being active during your pregnancy is safe and healthy for you and your baby.

  • Pregnant woman going for a walk.

    Walking and pregnancy

    Walking is a safe and simple way to stay active during pregnancy. It’s the perfect activity to start with if you’re not used to exercise.

  • Pregnant women participating in a yoga class.

    Yoga in pregnancy

    Yoga is an activity that focuses on mental and physical wellbeing. It uses a series of body positions (called postures) and breathing exercises.

  • Pregnant women participating in aquanatal exercise class.

    Swimming in pregnancy

    Swimming and doing other exercises in water is a particularly good way to stay active during pregnancy.

  • Pregnant women in strength-training class.

    Strength training in pregnancy

    Strength exercises are activities that strengthen your muscles. They include the use of weights, swimming, walking uphill, yoga and even digging the garden. They will improve your muscle tone and build stamina, which will help you during labour.

  • A pregnant woman running.

    Running in pregnancy

    If you ran or jogged regularly before your pregnancy, you can carry on for as long as you feel comfortable – it’s a great aerobic exercise and can help you to have a fit and healthy pregnancy.

  • Pregnant woman practicing pilates.

    Pilates and pregnancy

    Pilates is a type of exercise that will work your muscles and improve your flexibility without putting too much strain on your joints.

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    Exercises to avoid in pregnancy

    There are a small amount of exercises and activities that may cause injury or other problems for you or your unborn baby. Because of this, it’s best to avoid them until after your baby is born.

  • Pregnant woman going outdoor swimming.

    How active should I be in pregnancy?

    How much activity or exercise you should do during your pregnancy will depend on how active you were before you got pregnant and any health issues you may have.

  • Female jogger running on bridge

    I exercise a lot. Could this reduce my chances of conceiving?

    Your ability to conceive should not be affected by exercise unless you are over-exercising and becoming underweight.

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.  NHS Choices  [accessed 23 February 2015] ‘Exercise in pregnancy’ http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-exercise.aspx 
  3.  NHS Choices  [accessed 23 February 2015] ‘A guide to pilates’ http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/pilates.aspx 
  4.  Nascimento SL, Surita FG, Cecatti JG (2012) ‘Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review’, Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 24 (6): 387–94: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23014142 
  5. Katz VL (1996) ‘Water exercise in pregnancy’, Seminars in Perinatology, 20 (4): 285–91: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8888454 
  6. NHS Choices  [accessed 23 February 2015] ‘A guide to yoga’, :http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/yoga.aspx
  7. NHS Choices  [accessed 23 February 2015] ‘What are pelvic floor exercises?’, : http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1063.aspx?categoryid=52 
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Last reviewed on February 1st, 2015. Next review date February 1st, 2018.

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