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Getting movement back into your day – Exercise in Pregnancy

Lack of energy or sore back and hips are common complaints in pregnancy, especially with our busy lifestyles, which can lead to a less mobile period in our life. During this time as our bodies change and adapt it is important that we find movement that is comfortable and enjoyable.

Why exercise in pregnancy?

There are many benefits of exercise in general and especially exercise in pregnancy. Regular exercise can maintain cardiovascular fitness, which can be important for labour. Exercise can also play a role in maintaining a healthy weight in pregnancy and reducing the risk of gestational diabetes.

There are many links for exercise having a positive effect in reducing stress and anxiety levels which can improve maternal and foetal wellbeing.

What exercise is recommended?

Exercise of a moderate intensity for about 20-30 minutes per day on most days of the week is recommended. Such as walking, swimming, stationary cycling, low impact aerobics, modified yoga and modified Pilates. You may also be able to continue with some activities if you regularly participated in them before pregnancy, like running, jogging, racquet sports and strength training. It is important that you discuss your exercise with your obstetric provider as there may be some medical conditions that prevent of limit some exercise.

What exercise should you avoid?

Exercise that has the potential to cause trauma to the abdomen or increase your risk of losing your balance should be avoided. You should also avoid exercising in high heat or humidity, like hot yoga or Pilates. Other examples of exercise to be avoided in pregnancy are; contact sports (like hockey, football, basketball and netball), water and snow skiing, surfing, off-road cycling, gymnastics and horseback riding. Activities like scuba diving and sky diving should also be avoided.

How hard can you exercise in pregnancy?

This generally is dependent on your level of exercise before pregnancy. There are two easy and effective ways of monitoring your exercise level. Firstly the ‘talk test’: exercise should be at a comfortable intensity to allow you to maintain a short conversation while you move. Secondly you can use a perceived exertion scale. This is a scale that rates your perception of exercise from 0-20. For example 9=very light exercise, 11=fairly light, 13=somewhat hard, 15=hard, 17=very hard and 19= very, very hard. You should aim for exercise around 13-14 on this scale.

What are the signs to stop exercising?                           

It is important that you listen to your body. If you are aware of excessive shortness of breath, chest pain/palpitations, dizziness, painful uterine contractions, leaking of amniotic fluid, vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, calf pain or swelling and/or muscle weakness, you should stop your exercise. You should consult with your obstetric provider before recommencing any exercise.


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists



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