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Pregnancy Do’s and Don’ts: All About Exercise 

Moving your body is essential to help your pregnancy progress smoothly.
Written by the Theralogix team of Registered Dietitians
Like all aspects of pregnancy, you’ve got questions. How much exercise do you need during pregnancy? Keep reading for all the dos and don’ts of pregnancy exercise

Pregnancy is no walk in the park. But actually, a walk in the park might help. Moving your body and incorporating regular physical activity is essential to help your pregnancy progress smoothly and prepare your body for delivery day.  

But like all aspects of pregnancy, you’ve got questions. How much exercise do you need during pregnancy? Do you need to talk to your doctor about exercise? Are there any exercises you should avoid?  

Keep reading for all the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy exercise.  

DO: Participate in regular physical activity.  

Regular physical activity brings a multitude of benefits to your body during pregnancy. It helps maintain bone health, supports your immune system, keeps your heart healthy, and supports mental health. Some research even suggests that regular exercise during pregnancy can help shorten your time in labor – and that’s a major bonus.  

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week during pregnancy. But what counts as a moderate-intensity activity? It’s anything that gets your heart pumping and makes you break a little sweat, like brisk walking, water aerobics, riding a stationary bike, or dancing.  

DON’T: Start a new exercise plan without talking to your doctor.  

If you were exercising regularly before pregnancy, it’s typically fine to continue your usual workout routine with your OB-GYN’s approval. But if you’re thinking about starting a new exercise regimen, be sure to discuss your plan with your OB-GYN to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby.  

DO: Fuel your body well and drink plenty of water.  

Nutrition is especially important during pregnancy to help support your little one’s growth and development. And if you’re exercising regularly, your body needs fuel for that, too.  

Although your calorie needs don’t really change during the first trimester of pregnancy, you need about 340 and 450 more calories during the second and third trimesters, respectively. Focus on filling your plate with plenty of nutrient-rich foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.  

The ACOG recommends about 8-12 cups of fluid each day during pregnancy to help form the amniotic fluid, circulate nutrients in your body, and remove waste. But you probably don’t need to track your water intake. Just keep your water bottle handy so you can sip throughout the day when you’re thirsty, and monitor your urine color. It should be pale yellow when you’re well-hydrated – if it’s darker, it’s time to drink a little more. Water is great to keep you hydrated, but feel free to mix up your hydration routine with fruit-infused water, sparkling water, tea, or 100% fruit juice (in moderation – opt for whole fruits most of the time!). 

DON’T: Participate in high-risk activities.  

Some activities just aren’t safe during pregnancy. These activities carry an increased risk of injury to you and your baby:  

  • Contact sports (e.g., basketball, boxing, soccer, ice hockey, and other sports that put you at high risk of injury to the abdomen) 
  • Skydiving 
  • Activities that may result in a fall (e.g., downhill skiing, rollerblading, water skiing, off-road cycling, horseback riding, and gymnastics) 
  • Activities that may result in overheating (e.g., hot Pilates or hot yoga) 
  • Scuba diving 
  • Activities at high elevations (unless you already live in a high elevation area) 

DO: Incorporate rest days.  

Rest days are important for anyone training for a big event. Although you’re probably not signed up for a marathon or a weightlifting competition during pregnancy, you’re still training for a big event: delivery day.  

While physical activity helps prepare your body for labor, rest days give your body time to recover and come back stronger than ever. Be sure to listen to your body and respect your limits as you continue to exercise during pregnancy.  

DON’T: Exercise in excessive heat.  

Most experts caution against exercising in very warm weather when you’re pregnant. That’s because it may raise your core body temperature too high, which isn’t good for you or your baby. One study suggests that pregnant women can safely exercise for up to 35 minutes in 77°F weather with 45% relative humidity. But, everyone tolerates heat and exercise differently, and if you’re not acclimated to warmer temperatures, you may want to avoid most outdoor activities in the hot summer months. Be sure to talk with your doctor about what’s safe for you.  

Pregnant in the summer? Check out this blog next to help you stay healthy in the heat.  

DO: Wear comfortable clothing.  

Your body changes as you progress throughout your pregnancy, and you’ll probably need some extra support for your growing belly during exercise. You don’t have to purchase a whole new wardrobe (unless you want to), but investing in a few maternity workout pieces can help you stay comfortable as you work out and move your body.   

DON’T: Ignore warning signs from your body.  

If something doesn’t feel right, stop exercising immediately. Some warning signs include bleeding from the vagina, trouble breathing, chest discomfort, or muscle weakness. Contact your OB-GYN if you experience anything unusual during exercise – it’s always best to play it safe.  

DO: Modify exercises as needed.  

You may not feel comfortable with certain exercises as your pregnancy progresses, even if you were doing them easily before pregnancy.  

Your growing baby bump may shift your balance, so it’s a good idea to replace high-impact exercises that involve a lot of bouncing or jumping with low-impact alternatives to reduce your risk of injury. It’s also best to avoid exercises that involve laying on your back for long periods of time, and you may require modified yoga or Pilates poses, too. Talk with your OB-GYN or a prenatal fitness professional to help you modify your favorite exercises during pregnancy.  

Physical activity is great for you and your little one – just make sure you participate in exercise safely and address any concerns with your OB-GYN.  

Curious about the other do’s and don’ts during pregnancy? Check out these blogs next: “Pregnancy Do’s and Don’ts: An Overview,” “Pregnancy Do’s and Don’ts: All About Snacks,” and “Pregnancy Do’s and Don’ts: All About Fish.”