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Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

This is a question troubling the minds of most women who are pregnant for the first time.

If you are healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it is usually safe to continue or start most types of exercise, but you may need to make a few changes. Physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery. However, it is important to discuss exercise with your obstetrician or other member of your health care team during your early prenatal visits. If your health care professional gives you the green signal to exercise, you can decide in consultation with a professional an exercise routine that fits your needs and is safe during pregnancy.

Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy and feel your best. Regular exercise during pregnancy can improve your posture and decrease some common discomforts such as backaches and fatigue. There is evidence that physical activity may prevent gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), relieve stress, and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery.

If you have never exercised regularly before, you can safely begin an exercise program during pregnancy after consulting with your health care provider, but do not try a new, strenuous activity. Walking and other certain exercises are considered safe to initiate when pregnant.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most if not all days of the week, unless you have a medical or pregnancy complication.

What Exercises Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy?

There are certain exercises and activities that can be harmful if performed during pregnancy. They include:

Holding your breath during any activity.

Activities where falling is likely (such as skiing and horseback riding).

Contact sports such as softball, football, basketball, and volleyball.

Any exercise that may cause even mild abdominal trauma such as activities that include jarring motions or rapid changes in direction.

Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing, or running.

Deep knee bends, full sit-ups, double leg raises, and straight-leg toe touches.

Bouncing while stretching.

Waist-twisting movements while standing.

Heavy exercise spurts followed by long periods of no activity.

For total fitness, a pregnancy exercise program should strengthen and condition your muscles.

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