Can I exercise during pregnancy?
Just 30 minutes of gentle exercise can make a huge difference to your pregnancy, your delivery and your health in general.
At a glance
Exercise while pregnant can improve energy, sleep, moods and can even help constipation and back-ache
Try prenatal yoga, it can be a great exercise to prepare for labour
Choose exercises that are gentle on your joints. You should be able to have a conversation during exercise
Tell your fitness instructor you are pregnant or choose exercise classes specifically for pregnant women
The benefits of exercising in pregnancy
Pregnancy can be exhausting, both mentally and physically. So, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. Pregnancy and exercise can go hand in hand, so regular, gentle exercise during pregnancy is a great way to improve your energy.
Exercise can also be one of the things that help you get a good night’s sleep during pregnancy. it can help prevent worry and depression. Light core strengthening exercises can help ease backache, and a stronger core can be helpful for labour. Eating healthily, avoiding gaining too much weight, and staying fit can help you avoid excess weight gain in pregnancy and help you get back into shape after the birth.
It can also ease other side effects during pregnancy. It will strengthen your muscles and help your body cope better with certain issues. Walking helps your circulation which will help if you start to develop varicose veins. Swimming will strengthen your core muscles to help you carry that growing bump and could even reduce swelling. On the subject of a growing bump, pregnancy-friendly yoga and pilates stretches can help with back ache.
Staying safe and well whilst exercising in pregnancy
- If you’re not used to regular exercise, speak to your GP or midwife first.
- Start off slowly and build up if you're able to. Aim for about 30 minutes of gentle exercise each day.
- Choose activities that are easy on your joints, swimming whilst pregnant is a great way to keep in shape, or even pregnancy aqua-aerobics. There’s pregnancy yoga too.
- Drink plenty of water before and after your workout.
- If you go to a gym, tell your fitness instructor that you are pregnant so that they can provide a suitable programme for you.
- Stretch gently before and after.
- Don’t push yourself too hard. Stop if you experience any pain, discomfort or dizziness. You should still be able to have a conversation as you exercise.
- Don’t exercise in heated rooms - for example Bikram Yoga, or Hot Yoga are practiced in very hot rooms so are unadvised.
- Build activities into your daily routine, such as walking and taking the stairs instead of using the lift.
Antenatal exercise tips
It’s never too early to start pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy.
- Sit comfortably and squeeze like you’re trying to stop yourself from passing wind or weeing
- Hold for 10 seconds
- Release and repeat up to 15 times
Core and back strengthening
- Start in a box position (on all fours) with knees under hips, hands under shoulders, with fingers facing forward and abdominals lifted to keep your back straight.
- Pull in your stomach muscles and raise your back up towards the ceiling, curling the trunk and allowing your head to relax gently forward. Don't let your elbows lock.
- Hold for a few seconds then slowly return to the box position.
- Take care not to hollow your back: it should always return to a straight/neutral position.
- Do this slowly and rhythmically 10 times, making your muscles work hard and moving your back carefully.
- Only move your back as far as you can comfortably.