Staying fit and healthy throughout pregnancy can help your body adapt as it changes shapes and your baby grows. But is it safe to do all the same workouts and activities that you’d normally do?
In this article, we take a look at what exercises are safe to do during pregnancy and what precautions you need to be taking.
Why exercise during pregnancy?
Unless you’ve been told to by a doctor, there’s no reason to reduce your activity levels while you’re pregnant. In fact, exercising can actually do a lot to support you and your baby’s health. Regular works out can:
- Reduce high blood pressure and the risk of diabetes
- Help you to maintain a healthy weight throughout your pregnancy and afterwards
- Reduce and ease swelling in ankles, feet and hands, and also reduce the chances of developing varicose veins
- Boost your mood and help you to sleep better
- Help you to cope better with labour and increase the likelihood of straightforward labour
- Make it easier to get back into shape and look after your body after giving birth
Exercise is important for both your physical and mental health, and this doesn’t change when you’re pregnant.
What exercises and activities are good during pregnancy?
It’s usually fine to continue with your usual exercise routine, as long as you don’t push yourself too far. You just need to be focused on maintaining your fitness levels, not trying to increase them.
These are a few of the best exercises and activities to do throughout your pregnancy:
- Walking: One of the best ways to stay active while pregnant is walking. It’s a good way to get outdoors and doesn’t place too much strain on your body. Aim to do about 30 minutes of walking each day.
- Pilates: Try pilates to help improve your balance and flexibility. It can be a really good way of helping your body adapt to the extra weight.
- Swimming: This is a good way to exercise because the water can support you so that you’re not putting any extra pressure or strain on your joints.
- Cycling: Cycling is another great way to exercise without too much impact. If it becomes more difficult to balance as your baby grows then use a stationary bike instead of cycling outside.
- Yoga: Yoga can help with your physical and mental wellbeing. There are plenty of pregnancy yoga classes that use relaxation and breathing techniques which can help relieve stress.
If you didn’t work out much before you were pregnant, then it’s not a good idea to suddenly increase the amount of exercise you do. Aim to do around 30 minutes of walking each day to keep yourself active, but don’t try to do anything more strenuous, especially if your body isn’t used to it.
Tips for working out when you’re pregnant
While it’s perfectly fine to carry on exercising during pregnancy, you do need to make some adjustments and take care of yourself. A good way to make sure you aren’t working out too strenuously is to check whether you can hold a conversation while you exercise. If you find you’re getting breathless as you talk, it’s a sign that you need to ease up a bit.
These are a few other ways to make sure you’re exercising safely:
- Don’t exercise for more than 45 minutes at once
- Warm-up properly before you exercise and take time to cool down when you’re done.
- Drink plenty of water while you’re exercising to stay hydrated
- Avoid working out too much when it’s hot
- If you’re attending any exercise classes ensure the instructor knows you’re pregnant
Remember to listen to your body and stop if you’re feeling uncomfortable or unwell — it’s great to stay fit when you’re pregnant, but your health and that of your baby comes first.
What exercises to avoid during pregnancy
There are plenty of exercises and activities you can still do safely throughout your pregnancy, however, there are a few things you should try to avoid.
- Contact sports: Things like boxing, martial arts, rugby, and squash, where there’s a chance you could get hit, should be avoided completely
- Activities with a risk of falling: Any activity like horse riding, skiing, ice skating, and cycling should also be done very cautiously — especially towards the end of your pregnancy when you might find it harder to balance.
It’s also important to not do any activities where you lie flat on your back for a period of time, especially after the first 16 weeks as it might make you feel light-headed and faint.
Can I lift weights while pregnant?
If you were doing weight lifting regularly before you were pregnant then it should be fine to continue, but you will have to make some adjustments and take extra precautions.
Avoid using free weights if possible as there’s a risk of them dropping on your stomach, don’t use weights behind your neck and don’t do weighted sit ups after 12 weeks. Other than that try not to lift anything that feels too heavy, and don’t strain yourself. Instead of using the heavier weights try doing more repetitions with lighter weights.
Can I run while pregnant?
It is usually safe to carry on running for as long as you feel comfortable, if you were a regular runner before pregnancy. Just be careful not to push yourself too far, make sure you have lots of water with you to stay hydrated, and avoid running outdoors when it’s too hot.
When to stop exercising
It’s important to know your limits when exercising during pregnancy. Make sure you take it easy and take plenty of breaks when you need to.
If you find yourself experiencing any dizziness or feel lightheaded then stop exercising and sit down. And if you experience pain, bleeding, difficulty breathing, swelling in your legs, or headaches then you should get in touch with your doctor or medical team immediately.
Eating a healthy diet
As well as exercising regularly, you should also make some adjustments to your diet during pregnancy. You need to be eating the right balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to keep you and your baby healthy. In particular, you need to be getting enough folic acid, vitamin D, calcium, and iron.
You can boost your intake of these through your diet and in some cases you might need to take additional supplements. There are also a number of foods to avoid during pregnancy such as some cheeses, unpasteurised dairy products, and certain meat or fish.
It’s important to stay active and healthy while you’re pregnant, and while you may need to pause some of your more strenuous activities in most cases you’ll be able to carry on as normal. The main thing is to just be aware of your body and how you’re feeling, take things a bit slower and don’t push yourself too hard.