80202 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Exercise and Pregnancy: A Healthy Combination

    Image for pregnant fitness Exercise during pregnancy is not only safe, it’s increasingly recommended. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy women get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise on most if not all days of the week is recommended to pregnant women who have no medical or obstetric complications.

    The Benefits of Exercising During Pregnancy

    Some benefits of exercising regularly during pregnancy can include:
    • Weight control
    • Stronger abdominal and back muscles, which improves posture and may lessen back pain
    • Increased energy levels
    • Improved mood
    • Preparation for phsyical demands of labor
    • Enhanced quality of sleep

    Recommended Exercises

    The best exercises for pregnancy are those that put minimal stress on the joints, involve smooth movements, and have a low risk of falling or body contact. Great exercises include swimming, walking, stationary biking, and elliptical machines.

    Activities to Limit or Avoid

    Some activities pose increased risks in pregnancy and should be limited or avoided. These include:
    • Scuba diving
    • Activities that present an increased risk of falling (eg, skiing, skating)
    • Sports with a high potential for contact (eg, ice hockey, soccer)
    • Exercising at high altitudes (over 6,000 feet)
    • Activity that involves lying flat on your back
    • Resistance training with heavy weights

    Exercise Duration and Frequency

    Exercising for 30 minutes a day on most days of the week is all that’s needed to maintain fitness and achieve related benefits. Women who wish to exercise for longer than 45 minutes should speak to their doctors before doing so. Getting your exercise in 10-minute spurts is also fine. As long as you exercise at a moderate or vigorous pace for at least 10 minutes, these short bursts of exercise can count toward your overall goal.

    Other Factors to Consider

    • Balance: As your body shape changes, so does your balance, which could put you at a greater risk of falling.
    • Temperature regulation: Exercising in a controlled, air-conditioned environment will help keep temperature levels in check. And in general it’s a good idea to wear layers of clothes and exercise during the cooler hours of the day. Also, drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
    • Nutrition: Women who are pregnant need an extra 300 calories per day during the last six months of pregnancy. Exercising may further increase your calorie needs.
    If you were sedentary before pregnancy, do not despair. You can still reap the benefits of exercise by gradually working up to 30 minutes per day. Realize that pregnancy is not the time for making significant gains in your fitness level—or for athletic competition. Competitive athletes who wish to maintain a more strenuous exercise schedule throughout pregnancy should do so only under the close supervision of their doctors.

    Before You Begin

    Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program during pregnancy and be sure to follow up with regular check-ups. Additionally, if you notice any of the following symptoms, stop exercising immediately and contact your doctor:
    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Shortness of breath
    • Dizziness
    • Headache
    • Chest pain
    • Muscle weakness
    • Calf pain or swelling
    • Preterm labor
    • Unusual change in your baby’s movement
    • Amniotic fluid leakage
    Although it may be wise to proceed with a little more care then usual, pregnant women who are medically cleared should feel free to partake in a wide array of activities. Exercising during pregnancy has many benefits, including an improved sense of well-being. It’s probably the best way to prepare for the physical demands of motherhood.

    After Baby Arrives

    Regular exercise can also be helpful after your baby has arrived. Exercise during the postpartum period can boost your mood and help you maintain a healthy weight.


    The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org/

    National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases http://win.niddk.nih.gov


    Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology http://www.csep.ca/

    The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org


    Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. . Available at: http://www.acog.org/Resources%5FAnd%5FPublications/Committee%5FOpinions/Committee%5Fon%5FObstetric%5FPractice/Exercise%5FDuring%5FPregnancy%5Fand%5Fthe%5FPostpartum%5FPeriod. Published January 2002

    Fit for two: Tips for pregnancy. Weight-control Information Network website. Available at: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/two.htm. Updated November 2009. Accessed June 18, 2012.

    Healthy Pregnant or Postpartum Women. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/pregnancy.html. Updated March 30, 2011. Accessed June 18, 2012.

    Kramer MS, McDonald SW. Aerobic exercise for women during pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jul 19;3:CD000180.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.