September 5, 2023
Best Exercises During Pregnancy

By Sharon Mazel

When you’re a mom-to-be, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. Just getting out of bed each morning often seems insurmountable. But there are a lot of good reasons why incorporating exercises into your daily routine is smart. Here’s what you need to know about exercising during pregnancy.

How much do I need to exercise?

Experts recommend that expectant moms whose pregnancies are progressing normally get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week during pregnancy. So elevate your heart rate and get sweaty, mama!

There are no rules on how to get those 150 minutes. You can aim for 30-minute workouts 5 days a week, or 15 minutes exercises 10 times over the week, or even 10-minute mini workouts twice a day to add up to 150 minutes. Any type of moderate-intensity movement counts: vacuuming the house, gardening, walking briskly, and of course any type of cardio exercise.

What are the benefits of exercising during pregnancy?

Exercising when you’re expecting can keep you and your pregnancy healthy, plus offer up benefits to your baby as well.

A regular workout routine can boost your mood, ease pregnancy ache and pains (such as backache), decrease the chances of certain pregnancy complications (such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia), help you sleep better, strengthen your heart, blood vessels, and muscle tone (making you more fit for childbirth and parenting to come), ease constipation and other pregnancy woes, promote a healthy weight gain, and make it easier to lose weight after the baby is born.

If that’s not enough, exercise during pregnancy is also good for your baby. Studies have shown that newborns whose moms exercised during pregnancy may show more physical coordination earlier than other babies, have stronger hearts and slower pulses (indicating better cardiac health), and have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases (obesity or diabetes, for instance) later in life.

Is exercise during pregnancy safe?

Assuming your pregnancy is not high risk and your doctor or midwife hasn’t advised against movement or exercise, working out during pregnancy is perfectly safe and beneficial. Exercise does not increase the risk of miscarriage or premature delivery.

Is it safe if I’ve never exercised before pregnancy?

Happily, exercising is safe during pregnancy even if you’ve been a couch potato all your life. Start slowly—5 minutes a day, for instance—and gradually increase the number of minutes per week until you reach the recommended 150 minutes per week.

Do I have to change anything about my regular workout routine now that I’m pregnant?

Pregnancy brings on a lot of changes to your body, so you may need to adapt your regular exercise routines as your pregnancy progresses.

As your belly grows, your center of balance may be off, so you’ll want to take extra care that you don’t fall when working out.

Pregnancy hormones relax your ligaments and joints, making you at higher risk of getting hurt when you’re exercising. Avoiding jerky, bouncy, or high-impact movements can keep you safe, decreasing the risk of injury.

When you’re pregnant, your oxygen needs increase. You might find yourself more breathless, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t push yourself too hard when you’re working out. If you’re unable to carry on a conversation while you’re exercising, you’re probably overdoing it. And because your growing belly may make it more uncomfortable to get into certain positions (such as laying on your back for a prolonged period of time), you’ll need to adapt (or avoid) certain exercises as your pregnancy progresses.

Are there any precautions I should take when I’m exercising during pregnancy?

Always warm up before you start exercising and cool down with some stretching after you complete your workout. Be sure you stay well hydrated, avoid any activity that overheats you, steer clear of poses that keep you motionless or on your back for too long, and wear a supportive bra so you stay comfortable even with your growing breasts.

And of course, stop exercising if you get dizzy or don’t feel well. If you notice certain warning signs (such as bleeding, fainting, chest pain, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, contractions, or your water breaking), call your obgyn or midwife.

What are some pregnancy-safe exercise options?

Walking. Walking puts minimal stress on your joints, and if you do it briskly, you can work up a sweat. If you were a runner before pregnancy and your pregnancy is low risk, you’ll likely get the green light to continue running.

Pilates or yoga. Pilates and yoga are low-impact exercises that offers excellent benefits throughout pregnancy. They’ll help keep you flexible and increases mind-body awareness. You’ll have to adapt certain movements (such as ones on your back) when you’re pregnant, so choose a program that’s specifically geared to expectant moms.

Barre. Barre routines that combine yoga and ballet can boost your balance and strengthen your lower body and core—all without jumping, making it an excellent option for mamas to be. As with Pilates, you may need to adjust some of the moves as your pregnancy progresses.

Swimming. Swimming is a low-impact cardio exercise that’s great for expectant moms. Swimming gives you the benefit of feeling weightless, something you’ll welcome as your belly gets bigger.

Indoor rowing. Indoor rowing is low impact, easy on the joints, and gives your baby-making body a safe full workout. Rowing engages 86% of your muscles, bumps up your heart rate, and makes you break a sweat in only 20 minutes.

Stationary bike. Outdoor cycling won’t be safe when you’re pregnant, but pedaling indoors can certainly help you break a sweat. You may need to adjust the seat and handlebars as your pregnancy progresses for comfort sake.

Strength training. Working out with weights will keep your muscles toned and strong enough for the work of childbirth ahead. Stick to lighter weights and adapt your regular strength training to adjust for your growing belly.

What exercises should I avoid during pregnancy?

You’ll definitely want to avoid skydiving when you’re pregnant (ha!… as if that’s in the cards now). In all seriousness, any sport or exercise that puts you at risk of getting hit in the belly or that increases your chances of falling and getting seriously hurt (such as hockey, boxing, soccer, basketball, skiing, surfing, scuba diving, or horseback riding) should be avoided during pregnancy. Also avoid any exercise routine that gets you overheated, like hot yoga or hot Pilates.

If you’re expecting, you’ll want to download my FREE e-guide The Complete Hospital Bag Packing List. Looking for newborn prep help? My course Newborns 101 will help get you ready for your baby-to-be.

And be sure to get my book Bite-Sized Parenting: Your Baby’s First Year so you can learn everything you need to know for your baby’s first year! Grab your copy today!



The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Exercise During Pregnancy, March 2022
Mayo Clinic, Pregnancy and exercise: Baby, let’s move!, March 2021
FASEB conference paper, Gestational Exercise Effects on the Infant Heart, April 2011
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Effects of Aerobic Exercise during Pregnancy on 1-Month Infant Neuromotor Skills, August 2019
Clinical Medicine Insights: Women’s Health, The Influence of Prenatal Exercise on Offspring Health: A Review, October 2016


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