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What You Need to Know Before You Exercise While Pregnant

written by: Angela Atkinson • edited by: KJ Fitness,Ink • updated: 4/21/2009

Everyone knows that it's important to stay healthy during your pregnancy. Exercise is one way to achieve that goal--but pregnant women must make certain considerations when setting up a fitness routine. Learn how here.

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    Image Credit: Benjamin Earwicker
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    The moment you become pregnant, your body begins to change rapidly. While it’s important to exercise during your pregnancy if possible, there are certain considerations that must be made, both for your safety and for that of your baby.

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    Getting Started

    Pregnant women may be more likely to overheat during exercise, especially in the second and third trimesters. Take precautions to avoid this. Wear light and comfortable clothing which allows you to move freely. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your work out.

    Supportive footwear is always important during exercise, but especially so during pregnancy.

    To help avoid painful muscles and joints, don’t forget to include effective warm up and cool down exercises, including stretches, in your routine.

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    What Works

    Yoga and Pilates are great exercises for pregnant women. Be sure that your instructor is qualified to work with pregnant women since special considerations should be made. Certain yoga poses, for example, aren’t appropriate for pregnant women. Your instructor should be aware of your special needs during this time.

    Walking is another effective form of exercise for pregnant women of almost all fitness levels. Those who jogged before pregnancy can continue throughout with physician approval.

    Swimming is an incredibly low impact form of exercise that is also soothing for pregnant women. Not only do you get a safe and effective work out, but while you’re in the water, pregnancy related joint pain and pressure can be relieved.

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    What to Avoid

    Certain types of exercise aren’t appropriate for pregnant women. Use common sense while planning your routine. Skip high risk exercises like horseback riding, skiing, skating and water skiing altogether. Each of these poses the threat of falling and injuring yourself or your baby.

    Also, stop bicycling after the second trimester, unless you’re using a stationary bike.

    By the beginning of your second trimester, you should avoid exercise which involves laying flat on your back for more than three minutes.

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    Warning Signs

    Even when your doctor advises you to exercise during your pregnancy, there are certain red flags that should be noted. The American Pregnancy Association says that if you experience any of the following, you should stop exercising immediately and contact your doctor:

    • chest pain
    • shortness of breath
    • dizziness or faintness
    • heart palpitations
    • menstrual-type cramps
    • vaginal bleeding.
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    When to Skip It

    Certain conditions preclude a woman from exercising during pregnancy. In fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association, if you have pregnancy induced high blood pressure (hypertension), prematurely ruptured membranes, or cervical or intrauterine issues, you should not exercise during your pregnancy.

    It’s important to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program during your pregnancy just to be safe. For more information on being safe and healthy during your pregnancy, the US Department of Health and Human Services offers a comprehensive resource site.